RANGERS 3, PANTHERS 0
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
The Panthers have a few rules.
Don't walk on the carpeted logo in the middle of the dressing room. Players are fined if their jersey touches the floor.
'Don't talk about the power play' could be next.
Yes, the Panthers again failed to score a goal with a man advantage on Friday night and it cost them -- again -- as they didn't convert on five power play chances in a 3-0 loss to the Rangers in front of a lively 17,013 at BankAtlantic Center.
Florida went 0-3 during its holiday homestand after starting the season 5-2-0 in Sunrise.
“You best players have to be your best players,'' coach Pete DeBoer said, “and in all three games, we had trouble scoring. Our best players didn't get on the board and we were out-goaltended in all three. It's tough to win games when that happens.''
Not only have the Panthers not scored a power play goal since Nov. 10, their opponents are now scoring when Florida has been on the advantage. Brandon Prust's goal late in the third was the second time in as many games an opponent has scored shorthanded on the Panthers. Florida, prior to Wednesday's game against the Bruins, had given up just one shorthanded goal this season.
The Panthers, meanwhile, haven't scored in 33 consecutive power play chances.
With the Sawgrass Mills packed to the gills across the street, the Panthers had a Black Friday of their own as Rangers backstop Henrik Lundqvist had his way with Florida once more. Lundqvist has beaten the Panthers in 11 of his 17 starts against them, earning his fourth shutout against the Cats.
In those 17 games, Lundqvist has given up just 30 goals (1.76 per) and has made saves on 494 of 524 shots (94 percent).
The Panthers, who have lost three straight for the first time this season, came at Lundqvist hard throughout the game and took 21 more shots (40-19) than the Rangers.
Only Lundqvist was on – and his teammates took advantage of their scoring opportunities.
“He's a top three goalie in the league,'' said Chris Higgins, who played with Lundqvist last season. “One thing I respected was seeing him in practice every day. It's not a shock he played that well; I wish he was off his game a little though.''
Moments after the Panthers failed to score on a four-minute Sean Avery penalty -- Dmitry Kulikov's hooking penalty in the middle sure didn't help -- the Rangers pounced as Derek Stepan buried a rebound that Scott Clemmensen failed to secure.
The Panthers trailed 1-0 from that point in the opening period until early in the third when the Rangers power play unit showed their hosts how it's done. With 13 seconds left in a Stephen Weiss holding penalty, Erik Christensen fed Ryan Callahan in the slot. Callahan's nifty backhanded deflection beat Clemmensen to give the Rangers some breathing room against the offensively-challenged Panthers.
Florida hasn't been good to bouncing back from late deficits this season and dropped to 0-7 when trailing going into the third period.
Lundqvist did have some work to do against the Panthers as he stopped a point-blank shot from Mike Santorelli in the second and also stoned Shawn Matthias. In the third, it appeared the Panthers had cut the deficit to one, only Weiss knocked down the puck during a scrum in front of the net and was charged with a hand pass. Higgins, a New York native, battled to knock the loose puck past Lundqvist – but Weiss' glove work negated Higgins' perseverance.
“Usually they wave those off when it hits the other guy [Lundqvist], but they said he needed full control,'' Higgins said. “It doesn't seem like we get too many calls to begin with. This week is no exception.''
Winger Bill Thomas got to experience the fun of Thanksgiving travel twice as he was sent back to the Panthers AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., on Thursday – only to be recalled on Friday.
Thomas was brought back as a precaution as DeBoer said the Panthers had some banged-up forwards who might need a rest either on Friday or Saturday. Thomas was not used in Friday's game.
SATURDAY: PANTHERS AT LIGHTNING
When/Where: 7:30 p.m.; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa
TV/Radio: No local TV; WQAM-560
The series: Panthers lead 50-33-10
The game: Tampa Bay had a five-game winning streak snapped with a 6-0 loss at Washington on Friday. The Lightning are 4-2-0 in the second game of a back-to-back set. .-.-. The Panthers, who won the previous meeting 6-0 against Tampa in Sunrise on Oct. 16, are 0-4 in the second game of a two-game set. The Panthers played host to the Rangers on Friday. .-.-. Steven Stamkos, who has 21 goals in 23 games this season, has six goals in 12 games against Florida.