SUNRISE (CBSMiami/AP) – The Florida Panthers closed out 2014 with one of their worst games of the season.
The Panthers opponent, the New York Rangers, finished a strong December in strong fashion.
Ryan McDonagh, Chris Kreider and Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist each, and the Rangers got back to their winning ways with a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.
Derick Brassard, Martin St. Louis and Dominic Moore also scored for New York, and Derek Stepan had three assists. Henrik Lundqvist made 19 saves.
The Rangers won their first game after having an eight-game winning streak snapped at Dallas on Monday. It was the longest run in 40 years for New York (20-11-4), which went 9-3 in December.
“We knew they played (Montreal) last night, and we just wanted to play fast and push the pace. I think that’s what we did,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.
Tomas Fleischmann and Jimmy Hayes scored for Florida.
New York dominated play from the outset. The Panthers were outshot 24-12 through the first two periods and 34-21 overall.
“It took us maybe six or seven minutes to get going in the first period, but I thought once we got going our north-south game was quick and our passing was good and we did what we had to do to win the game,” Vigneault said.
The Rangers are 16-0-1 when they allow two goals or fewer.
“We didn’t spend a lot of time in our end and, without a doubt, it was a good team effort,” Vigneault said.
Florida (16-10-9) tied its franchise record with 17 points in December. The Panthers, who lost to Montreal 2-1 in a shootout on Tuesday, went 2-1-1 on their traditional holiday homestand.
Panthers coach Gerard Gallant was impressed by the Rangers in his team’s first game against New York.
“They dominated most of the night,” Gallant said. “I thought we had seven or eight good minutes in the third, but most of the night the Rangers were all over us. We were totally dominated.
“That’s the best team I’ve seen so far this year. They really took control of the game.”
Al Montoya made big stops in the first period on Kreider on a breakaway, J.T. Miller on a rebound and Mats Zuccarello on a slap shot with traffic in front before Kreider scored his sixth goal at 16:42.
The Rangers struck quickly in the second when Brassard put in a rebound off a shot by McDonagh from the left circle at 1:29. It was Brassard’s ninth goal and first since he netted a pair against Philadelphia on Nov. 29.
“(The Panthers) keep games tight,” Brassard said. “They get those extra points and they stay in a lot of games. We knew going in that it was going to be a game from start to finish.
“We were lucky there to get a couple more (goals) and keep the lead.”
McDonagh made it 3-0 by keeping in a clearing attempt with his foot. He then zipped a slap shot past Montoya at 14:48 for a power-play tally – his third goal this season.
“He was awesome,” defenseman Marc Staal said of McDonagh. “He made some great plays during the rush. He was using his legs. He had a great game.”
Fleischmann took a long stretch pass from Jonathan Huberdeau and beat Lundqvist on the stick side with 3:22 left in the second for his fourth goal to make it 3-1.
Hayes brought the Panthers within a goal at 7:39, scoring his 11th.
“It was a good momentum swing for us to get right back in it,” Hayes said. “You score one, then you’ve got to go right back in and put the press on,
“We need to play more of a north-south game and be on top of their defense.”
St. Louis’ 12th goal came at 9:51 and increased New York’s lead to 4-2.
Moore scored after St. Louis was stopped by Montoya on a breakaway. Moore put back the shot at 15:35 for his second goal.
NOTES: Florida signed returning top scorer Nick Bjugstad to a six-year, $24.6 million contract extension. … Rangers D Kevin Klein’s assist in the first period was his 100th career point. … Florida’s Jimmy Hayes and younger brother Kevin, a Rangers forward, faced each other professionally for the first time. The Boston natives were teammates at Boston College for one year and played together for Team USA at the 2014 IIHF World Championship.
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