By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
Thursday night at Madison Square Garden the Rangers kept firing one shot after another at Florida Panthers goalie Jakob Markstrom, from every angle, and 45 in total. But Markstrom stopped all but one, as the Rangers two-game winning streak ended with a 3-1 defeat.
The win was the second straight for Florida, which had been 0-5-1 prior to winning the first two games of this five-game road trip.
Marian Gaborik finally broke through against Markstrom on the Rangers' 42nd shot of the game with 3:48 remaining in regulation to bring the home team to within a goal of the visitors. Gaborik charged to the net, split the defense, and lifted a shot over Markstrom and into the cage for his ninth goal of the season. Markstrom had been working on his first NHL shutout prior to Gaborik's goal.
The Rangers went on the power play with 62 seconds remaining in the third period when Tomas Fleischmann hooked Ryan Callahan, but Gaborik's slap shot was blocked by Tomas Kopecky, who turned and fired the puck down the ice and into the empty net for his 12th goal with 45.9 seconds to play, icing the road win for Florida.
Despite vastly outshooting and outchancing the Panthers over the first two periods, the Rangers still found themselves trailing 2-0. Markstrom had stopped all 27 shots he had faced to that point, and the opportunistic Panthers cashed in on two of their 16 shots---scoring once in each of the first two periods.
Florida jumped out to a 1-0 lead 8:22 into the game when Brian Campbell's left wing power play shot eluded the gloved hand of Lundqvist. Roman Hamrlik was sitting in the penalty box at the time of Campbell's seventh goal of the season, having committed a high-sticking infraction only 26 seconds before the score.
Scottie Upshall was credited with his second goal of the season to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead 4:28 into the second period. Lundqvist made the first save off a Jack Skille shot and then a collection of Rangers and Panthers swatted away at the puck until it somehow floated past Lundqvist and into the cage.
In between those two goals, and certainly after the second one, the Rangers had the better of the play. They just could not get the puck past the 23 year-old Markstrom, who was appearing in his 17th career game and first ever against the Rangers. Their two failed power play opportunities--coming against Florida's league-worst penalty killing unit--further frustrated the home team.
Markstrom and Lundqvist traded big-time saves before the second period was over. First Markstrom stood tall in denying Marian Gaborik's point-blank backhand attempt off a pretty Brad Richards pass. And then with 1:20 remaining in the middle stanza Lundqvist kicked out Peter Mueller's breakaway shot to keep the score 2-0.
Chris Kreider, the Rangers top pick in the 2009 draft who was just recalled from the Connecticut Whale, skated on the very effective third line with Brian Boyle and J.T. Miller. That threesome played physically and created several good scoring chances in the game. Miller was credited with three shots, including a second-period ten-footer off a Kreider feed that was stopped by Markstrom.