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Rangers beat Panthers, move above .500 Live



Rangers right wing Derek Dorsett (no. 15) celebrates with
teammates after he scored against Florida Panthers goalie Tim Thomas
(no. 34) during the second period. (Nov. 10, 2013) Photo credit: Ray Stubblebine
by jennifer.earl



BY STEVE ZIPAY


This was a game that the Rangers would have lost last season.
At home. Against a struggling team. Allowing them to dictate the play for stretches and forcing Henrik Lundqvist to keep them in it.

Meanwhile, the Blueshirts would miss golden opportunities from in close.

That happened with 3:42 left in the second period Sunday night, when Brad Richards — who hadn’t scored in eight-plus games — missed a wide-open tap-in with the score tied, and at the next stoppage, swung and broke his stick in two across the right post in frustration.

Neither piece went in the net.

But Richards, with a new stick, got a measure of redemption just 46 seconds into the third as he scored the go-ahead goal in the Rangers’ 4-3 win over the Panthers.

Richards made it 3-2 as he took a pass from Carl Hagelin off a rush and ripped a high shot past veteran goaltender Tim Thomas from the left circle.

Speaking of frustration, the Panthers (3-11-4) showed some at 1:40 of the third when Thomas punched J.T. Miller in the face in the crease after Miller bumped him. Both players received a minor penalty.

Mats Zuccarello then provided a two-goal cushion when he one-timed a blast from the right circle on a five-on-three at 6:16 for a 4-2 lead and the Garden crowd sang “Zoook” to celebrate.

With 7:03 left, the Panthers closed the gap to one goal when Brian Campbell scored his second of the game and the season. That snapped a nine-game stretch of the Rangers allowing two goals or fewer.

The Panthers had one final chance to tie it when Chris Kreider cross-checked Scottie Upshall near the bench at 18:45 and the Panthers pulled Thomas for a two-man advantage, but Lundqvist made his 24th and final save to preserve the win.

With the victory, the Rangers are 4-2 at the Garden and 9-8 overall, cracking the .500 mark for the first time this season.

The evening didn’t start well for the Panthers, who have a new coaching staff after the front office fired the head coach and assistants Friday.

Miller finished a tic-tack-toe passing sequence for his first goal of the season at 9:49. Ryan McDonagh stickhandled around a check at the left point and found Kreider on the right side. Miller drove to the left post and didn’t miss the net before Thomas could slide over.

The Rangers had killed 28 of the last 32 power plays, including one earlier in the period, but with Brian Boyle in the box for hooking, Alexsander Barkov finally got the puck past Lundqvist at 19:33 to tie the score at 1.

Lundqvist kept the Blueshirts tied early in the second, as the Panthers were more aggressive, particularly around the crease, out shooting the Rangers 9-3 in the first half of the period, and coming very close to taking the lead with chances at the doorstep.

Right after Thomas stopped Miller with a kick save on a feed from Del Zotto, Campbell’s point shot flew by Lundqvist at 11:20 for a 2-1 lead.

Derek Dorsett tied it with a second-effort tally at 13:58, when he followed up his wraparound that Thomas saved with a rebound while he was being shouldered away by Tom Gilbert. But it was far from over.

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