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NEW YORK (AP) — Marian Gaborik scored 3:29 into overtime for the New York Rangers, who outlasted the Florida Panthers 3-2 and moved to the top of the NHL standings on Thursday night with their eighth win in nine games.
Gaborik took a drop pass from Derek Stepan in the high slot and slapped in a drive for his 23rd goal of the season. New York (25-9-4) stayed one point ahead of Boston in the Eastern Conference, but jumped one point in front of West-leading Vancouver, which was idle.
Martin Biron, starting for the fourth time in nine games to give No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist a lighter workload, made 19 saves. Defenseman Anton Stralman and captain Ryan Callahan also scored for the Rangers, who showed no ill effects coming back to play indoors after their Winter Classic victory at Philadelphia on Monday.
Lundqvist is expected to start Friday at Pittsburgh.
Marcel Goc and Mike Santorelli scored goals, Mikael Samuelsson had two assists and Scott Clemmensen stopped 38 shots for the Southeast Division-leading Panthers, 0-2-3 in their last five road games — including two losses at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers took their first lead of the night 4:24 into the third when Callahan scored his 14th goal during a power play after Florida was caught with too many men on the ice. Brad Richards’ shot from above the left circle clipped the glove of defenseman Mike Weaver as he tried to block the drive and then hit Callahan in front before getting past Clemmensen.
But there wasn’t even enough time for the goal to be announced to the joyous crowd before the Panthers tied it again 36 seconds later. Santorelli, who served the too-many-men penalty, let go a shot from the center of the right circle that squeezed in between Biron’s left shoulder and the top corner of the net to make it 2-2 at 5:00.
The Panthers were again called for having too many men at 9:17, but New York failed to take advantage.
Florida grabbed a 1-0 lead with an early 2-on-1 break that turned into Goc’s third goal of the season 4:16 in. Goc raced up ice with Samuelsson and ran a give-and-go as defenseman Marc Staal spun in a circle trying to keep up with them. Goc snapped off a rising, fluttering shot that sailed past Biron’s glove, smacked the crossbar and found its way in.
Goc just returned to the lineup on Thursday after missing the previous 22 games because of an undisclosed upper-body injury. Samuelsson also just got back on the ice following a five-game absence, also caused by an upper-body injury.
The Rangers nearly got even with just over 6 minutes left in the period when Winter Classic star Mike Rupp, who scored twice in New York’s outdoor victory, had two chances at a wide-open left side of the net. Rupp first whiffed on a forehand attempt and then sent a backhander into Clemmensen.
But New York tied it before the period expired when Stralman scored his first goal with the Rangers at 17:44. Stralman wound up for a drive from the edge of the right circle, and the puck appeared to hit Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski in front before it got past Clemmensen. Stralman, in his 15th game with the Rangers since signing as a free agent, hadn’t scored since last Feb. 18 at Chicago, while with Columbus — a span of 22 games.
New York held a 16-8 edge in shots in the first period and had the only power play after Weaver was whistled for boarding.
The Rangers couldn’t take advantage of it in the second period, which was mostly uneventful. New York outshot Florida 8-5, but this time the Panthers had the only power play — a boarding call against Ruslan Fedotenko, who took out Santorelli.
(© 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)