Belfour stopped 35 shots and Stumpel scored two goals to help the Panthers beat the New York Rangers 4-2 on Wednesday night. Coming off consecutive losses to Atlanta, Florida improved to 1-4-1 on the road and 5-5-1 overall.
“That’s the best we’ve played 5-on-5 all season,” Florida coach Jacques Martin said. “Eddie was solid. He showed a lot of experience and composure.”
Juraj Kolnik and Gregory Campbell also scored for Florida.
“It feels good to play a full 60 minutes,” Kolnik said. “That’s how you win.”
New York, idle since winning a shootout in Toronto on Saturday night, lost for the fifth time in its last seven games to fall to 4-5-0.
“I still don’t like the way we played,” Rangers star Jaromir Jagr said. “We’re uptight. We’re not loose, for what ever reason. I don’t know why. Maybe we concentrate too much on the defence, we don’t do anything else. It wasn’t a fun game to play.
“We didn’t cycle the puck much. We didn’t have many chances. We had a lot of shots but not many chances. We just have to play looser and have fun. We’re just concentrating on not making a mistake but we have to play hockey. The one good thing is that it’s early in the season and we’ve got time to change it.”
The 41-year-old Belfour, 2-2-0 in his first season with Florida, allowed only Petr Prucha’s power-play score early in the second period and Martin Straka’s goal off an uncontested close-range shot with 6:50 left in the third.
“I’m starting to get in my groove,” Belfour said. “My timing is better and I’m seeing the puck much better. We definitely needed this win.”
Stumpel opened the scoring on a power play in the first period and sealed the victory with 3:29 remaining with his fifth goal of the season.
“It’s huge,” Stumpel said. “We needed a good feeling in the locker room about playing on the road.”
Kolnik gave the Panthers a 3-1 lead at 6:32 of the third period after stealing defenceman Michal Rozsival’s backhand pass attempt along the boards. Kolnik broke in alone on Henrik Lundqvist, faked him out of position and easily forehanded the puck into the empty net for his fourth goal of the season.
Campbell made it 2-1 at 4:10 of the second period, tipping Rostislav Olesz’s high shot past Lundqvist just 36 seconds after Prucha tied off a rebound a second after a two-man advantage ended.
Two nights after a special-teams meltdown in a 6-3 home loss to Atlanta, the Panthers killed Joe Nieuwendyk’s early hooking penalty and opened the scoring on Stumpel’s power-play goal. On Monday night, Florida allowed five goals in seven short-handed situations and failed to score on six power-play chances. Against the Rangers, Florida was 1-for-2 on the power play and successfully killed five of six penalties.
“Tonight, we got some big goals and some big saves that we haven’t been getting,” Martin said. “It’s so close in the conference that you have to get these wins.”
Stumpel scored with New York’s Karel Rachunek off for hooking, firing a low snap shot through Lundqvist’s legs.
The Panthers also killed Steve Montador’s elbowing penalty that carried into the second period and Gary Roberts’ roughing infraction early in the second, but Roberts was only a step on the ice and Olli Jokinen still off for tripping when Prucha scored.
Lundqvist made 20 saves.
“I’m not happy,” Lundqvist said. “This a game we needed to win and should have won. We played well, but just made some unfortunate mistakes in our own zone.”
Notes: Florida right wing Todd Bertuzzi missed his fourth straight game because of back spasms. … After playing six of their first nine games at home, the Rangers will play nine of their next 11 on the road, starting Saturday night in Phoenix with the first of four straight games on a West Coast swing. … The Panthers will face New Jersey on Thursday night and complete their three-game trip Saturday night against the New York Islanders.