RANGERS 1, PANTHERS 0
NEW YORK – Panthers coach Pete DeBoer bemoaned the fact that his team couldn't put away the Islanders on Saturday, saying when teams stick around “bad things happen.''
On Tuesday night against the Rangers, Florida's game plan seemed to be just hang around and hope to surprise them with a goal. That never transpired.
Brandon Dubinsky scored the Rangers first goal less than eight minutes into the third period and the Panthers – doubled up in shots for much of the night – couldn't answer as New York continued its march to the postseason with a 1-0 win over the Panthers at Madison Square Garden.
The Panthers, who kicked off their longest road trip of the season, have lost five of their past six away from Sunrise. Florida visits the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks on Wednesday.
“It's tough. We're missing our leading scorer of what's left of this team,'' said goalie Tomas Vokoun, referring to Stephen Weiss missing the game with a leg injury. Bryan McCabe, one of the castoffs from Florida's trade deadline purge, stood in the hallway not 50 yards away as Vokoun spoke.
“We battled hard but this where we're at right now. It's tough in this league to play on the road; we had some decent games at home, but we're playing top teams on this road trip. It's not going to get any easier.''
Vokoun kept the Panthers in it, turning back the first 30 shots he faced against a Rangers team that seemed to get frustrated with the slow pace of the game. The Rangers had a number of good chances in the first 40 minutes, but came after Vokoun and the Florida defense with a renewed energy in the third.
Just moments before Dubinsky scored, he had a shot get past Vokoun. The puck slowly trickled toward the line, but Florida defender Keaton Ellerby knocked it out of harms way. He couldn't do the same later as the Rangers worked the puck around the Florida zone with Dubinsky backhanding a loose puck past Vokoun from his position in front of the net.
The one goal was plenty good enough for goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has been on fire lately. The shutout was the 34th of Lundqvist's career and fifth all-time against Florida. Lundqvist has shutout the Panthers and neighboring Devils the most times in his career. Lundqvist has won his past five starts and seven of his past eight as the Rangers won their fifth straight.
Florida had a good chance to tie with 4:01 left as Lundqvist pounced on a loose puck after Jack Skille tried to push it through a scrum in front of the net.
“[Vokoun] gave us a chance in the third, but you're not going to win in this league unless you can score a goal,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “Our forwards, really 1-through-12, didn't bring enough to the table. We had some chances in the third but not enough. We didn't get enough out of our forward group.''
McCabe, Florida's former captain, made his presence felt early as Vokoun made a save on his big shot from the point during the only power play of the night. That came midway through the first period.
TWO UP, TWO DOWN
Just as the Panthers begin getting some players back from injury, a few more need to take some time off. At least new injuries to center Stephen Weiss and goalie Scott Clemmensen don't appear to be serious. Both players missed Tuesday's game but are considered day-to-day. Clemmensen (knee) won't play Wednesday in Chicago although Weiss (leg) may.
Florida welcomed back forwards Jack Skille and Shawn Matthias after both missed substantial time with ankle injuries. Skille had been out since suffering a high ankle sprain Feb. 23 at Ottawa; Matthias broke his ankle on Jan. 26 at Boston.
Tyler Plante was brought up from Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., to backup Tomas Vokoun in net. Florida made room for Skille and Matthias by sitting Weiss and Patrick Rissmiller.
Adam Reasoner, the younger brother of center Marty Reasoner, filled in for Clemmensen at Tuesday's morning skate as Plante was flying in from Cleveland. Adam Reasoner, who played at Boston College, is a bond trader on Wall Street and took a cab from work to help the Panthers out. “It was a chance of a lifetime,'' he said.
WEDNESDAY: PANTHERS AT BLACKHAWKS
When, Where: 8:30 p.m.; United Center, Chicago
TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM 560
The series: Chicago leads 12-9-3
The game: The Panthers have fared surprisingly well against the Blackhawks lately, winning four of the past six – including a 3-2 decision in Sunrise earlier this month. Florida led 3-0 after the opening period then held on for dear life as the Hawks outshot the Panthers 29-7 through the final 40. Tomas Vokoun, who saved the Panthers in that game, is expected to start for Florida on successive nights. Vokoun started Tuesday against the Rangers in New York.
Tomas Vokoun Can't Do It All: Rangers blank Florida Panthers 1-0
RANGERS 1, PANTHERS 0