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The Panthers Take Manhattan: Florida 3, Rangers 2 ... Florida One Point out of Eighth


NEW YORK -- Another big win for the Panthers, a team that has climbed out of the abyss of a horrid start in which they won just two of their first 10 games.

But don't think the Panthers are getting too ahead of themselves nor full of themselves.

''We're far from thinking we're out of the woods just yet,'' Radek Dvorak said.

Said Pete DeBoer: ''It's early in the season. I think the key to an NHL season is riding the tide of the highs and lows. In the first 10 games of the season I wasn't ready to jump off a bridge and now I'm not ready to plan any parades.''

The Panthers have now won eight of 11 and swept a three-game road trip through Buffalo, Detroit and New York.

It's been pretty impressive.

On Wednesday and Friday, the Panthers sat back and hung around. Saturday, they seemed to surprise the Rangers by being the aggressor. They didn't get rewarded early, but did late.

Florida dictated play from the start and earned their three-game sweep by beating the Rangers 3-2 at Madison Square Garden.

''We started off well, like we wanted to although we didn't get the goals or the breaks,'' said Nathan Horton. ''I think we surprised them. They weren't ready to play. I thought we played good most of the night, got pucks to the net and got some lucky goals.''

The Panthers, who were at the bottom of the league standings 10 games into the season, have now pulled themselves back into the pack by winning eight of 11. Florida opened with a 6-2 win in Buffalo then followed with the franchise's first win in Detroit since 1996 on Friday night.

A quick look at the standings show Florida's 22 points one back of eighth place in the east and just three back of fifth-place Philadelphia. Yes it's early and this is no time to slow down. The Panthers open up a three-game homestand Monday against the Penguins, with the Rangers and Maple Leafs also coming to Sunrise.

The Panthers are in the midst of a rough stretch in which they play every other day until Christmas -- but if they can keep winning, they could put themselves back in a good position.

With Saturday's win, the Panthers climbed above .500 in the win column at 10-9-2.

-- Horton now has a five-game scoring streak going. Horton, who scored the game-winner against the Rangers on Saturday, has two goals and four assists in that time frame.

-- Linemates Stephen Weiss and Horton were part of both of Florida's goals in Detroit as Weiss scored the first goal off a Horton pass. Both assisted on Bryan McCabe's overtime winner.

Saturday, the two teamed up for the game-winner as Weiss' shot was blocked by Henrik Lundqvist and Horton cleaned up the rebound.

-- Loved Jordan Leopold's goal on Saturday. It looked like a crazy pool shot but reminded me of a wacky golf shot when you are close to the lake and you grab a wedge and are just trying to bang the ball back into the fairway. Only you really get hold of it and it lands near the green. Leopold's backhanded shot ended up skipping past Lundqvist.

''It's up there with one where you bounce it off the glass, the goalie comes out to play it and it goes in,'' Leopold said. ''It went in, it counts and it's on the scoresheet. It got us a big win. It's great. I was just throwing it down to get something going down low.''

Said Lundqvist: ''I just lost it. Guys were waving their sticks and it just bounced in front of me.''

-- How about Bryan Allen on Saturday? Playing in a back-to-back game, he led all players with 21:55 of icetime.

''He was a warrior out there tonight,'' DeBoer said.

-- Vokoun made 32 saves to be the third star on Saturday.