NEW YORK (AP) — Brad Richards shook off second-period frustration to power the New York Rangers’ offense in the third.
The Florida Panthers are still looking for any answer how to bust out of a long losing streak that has already cost one coach his job.
Richards snapped a tie in the opening minute of the third period and then set up an insurance goal that became necessary as the surging Rangers handed the Panthers their ninth straight loss with a 4-3 victory on Sunday night.
A missed prime scoring chance in the second period prompted Richards to shatter his stick against a goal post. His productivity in the third, had Panthers goalie Tim Thomas expressing similar frustration with his equipment.
Richards snapped a shot past Thomas 46 seconds in, and punched the glass in celebration of his first goal in nine games. Richards then assisted on Mats Zuccarello’s power-play goal that made it 4-2 and guided the Rangers to their third consecutive win and sixth in seven games.
“It seemed like one of those nights where you wonder if something was against you. But we got a clean sheet of ice and I put one into the net,” Richards said. “We’ve been winning lately, which brings the mood of everybody up.”
The Panthers know nothing of that lately. They have lost nine in a row (0-5-4), and show no signs of breaking out of it, even with strong performances on back-to-back days in road losses to Ottawa and New York.
Defenseman Brian Campbell scored his second of the game — and the season — to cut Florida’s deficit to 4-3 with 7:03 left, but the Panthers couldn’t get over the hump, even with a late power play after Thomas was pulled for an extra skater.
Florida let a one-goal lead get away in the second, committed a crucial turnover that led to Richards’ go-ahead goal, and then took two penalties 53 seconds apart that led to Zuccarello’s 5-on-3 tally that made it 4-2 at 6:16 of the third.
“I don’t know what to say,” Campbell said. “It deflates you, but you’ve got to keep pushing. That’s how teams lose hockey games.
“It’s tough getting down 5-on-3. Sometimes you have to be a little more careful and not let that happen.”
Interim coach Peter Horachek, who took over for the fired Kevin Dineen on Friday, took a more pointed approach after dropping to 0-2.
“You are not going to win games if you turn pucks over,” he said. “We are not going to get better until we decide we are going to manage the puck better. These are unforced errors. You can’t win hockey games that way.”
After a sluggish start during a season-opening, nine-game trip, the Rangers have found their stride. J.T. Miller and Derek Dorsett also scored for New York (9-8), which went over .500 for the first time this season.
Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves, but the Rangers had their nine-game streak of holding opponents under three goals broken.
“Even though they’ve been struggling a little bit lately, it’s still a tough game to play,” Lundqvist said. “The second goal for us when we tied it up was a big, big goal, going out and getting that confidence, knowing that we can do this.”
Aleksander Barkov had the other goal for the Panthers.
Thomas, in his second straight start after returning from injury, stopped 25 shots. He also took a roughing penalty when he punched Miller in the head after Miller crashed into him.
He said the hit wasn’t dirty, but probably crossed a line.
“I was just frustrated because I really wanted to help us to win and turn that corner,” Thomas said. “I wanted to be able to be that difference to help us to break out of this.”
Much of the second period was played at a chaotic pace with chances missed at both ends. Campbell notched his 400th NHL point on his first with the help of a fortunate bounce.
Campbell took a pass at the left point and fired a drive that struck the left post, caromed off Lundqvist’s backside, and went in with 9:01 left in the second.
“We’re doing so many good things, saying the right things. I believe guys have bought in,” Thomas said. They want to turn this corner so bad, it just hasn’t happened yet. It’s going to, we just have to stick with it.
“It’s kind of equal right now in the luck category. If we keep working hard, the bounces will all go our way in one game.”
The Rangers tied it 2-2 when Dorsett pushed the puck into Thomas at the left post, and then put in the rebound with 6:02 remaining in the second for his second of the season.
“I don’t think we played that well,” Zuccarello said. “At the same time we pushed the pace a little bit extra when they went up 2-1.”
New York grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first after forcing a turnover in the neutral zone. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh took a pass from Miller and handed it off to Chris Kreider, who quickly found Miller alone on the left side for a shot into the open net at 9:49.
Thomas played well, allowing Florida to get even in the closing seconds of the first with a rare power-play goal.
Two shots in close were stopped by Lundqvist, but the second by Kris Versteeg rebounded over to the 18-year-old Barkov, who scored inside the right post with 26.1 seconds left in the first. Barkov, the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, has four goals in his first 18 NHL games.
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