SUNRISE, Fla. – Florida’s Tomas Fleischmann went for a post-game medical evaluation after taking an elbow to the head Wednesday night. That left Panthers teammates to discuss his clutch performance.
Jason Garrison and Kris Versteeg scored and Jose Theodore stopped 19 shots to lead the Florida Panthers to their third straight win, a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers.
Derek Stepan scored his fourth goal for New York, which lost a second straight game following a seven-game winning streak. Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves.
Fleischmann had two assists for the Panthers, who have won four of five and are 6-2-3 in their last 11 games. He also was levelled when New York’s Andre Deveaux elbowed him near centre ice at 10:59 of the second.
“The refs certainly got the right call calling a match penalty,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “That’s the kind of thing, again at the end of the year, you put together tapes of what’s really wrong with the game, that hit would be one of them.”
Fleischmann later returned, which was a welcome sight for the Panthers.
“He’s such a skilled player—it feels like he has it on a string out there,” Garrison said. “He does a lot of things that I stare at. For him, if I ever get a pass from him, I just try to make sure I know it’s going to come to me at some point, so you’ve got to get ready for it.”
Stepan’s goal at 4:18 of the second pulled New York within 2-1. Marian Gaborik skated into the Florida zone on the right side and sent a cross-ice pass to Stepan, who fired a shot that beat Theodore high stick side.
The game was only the second in eight days for New York, which was shut out Saturday in Montreal. Coach John Tortorella shot down the notion of his team’s rustiness being due to inactivity.
“No, I don’t think so—then we’re just looking for excuses,” Tortorella said. “We just have to stay together, just as we did when we were winning.
“I thought we were winning hockey games when we were staying within our team concept. I think it’s getting away from us a bit in some of the details of the game.”
Florida went ahead 2-0 when Versteeg scored his 12th goal at 1:09 of the second. Fleischmann made a nifty move to get around Artem Anisimov to Lundqvist’s left, and then back-handed a pass to Versteeg, who one-timed the puck into the net.
Versteeg, who scored twice in Florida’s 4-3 win over New Jersey on Monday night, has seven goals and six assists over his last 13 games.
“Tomas could have passed it to me earlier, but he held on to it and he beat the guy,” Versteeg said. “That’s a gifted player who can make some pretty sweet plays.”
Florida opened the scoring when Garrison fired a slap shot from straight on that got past Lundqvist for a power-play goal at 10:06 of the first period. It was Garrison’s eighth goal. He entered the game leading the league in goals by a defenceman.
“Lundqvist is in his own class. He’s very steady. He didn’t give up a lot at all. We were able to fight through and get the win,” Garrison said.
The Rangers successfully killed a five-minute Florida power play after Deveaux was given a match penalty for an intentional hit to the head on Fleischmann near centre ice at 10:59 of the second.
New York’s power-play unit was 0-for-4 and fell to 9-for-74 overall (12.2 per cent) and 3-40 (7.5 per cent) on the road.
“We knew special teams would play a big part and unfortunately they won that match and that was kind of the difference,” Lundqvist said.
Notes: Florida has its first three-game home winning streak since Jan. 11-15. … The Panthers are 3-0 on their current four-game homestand after dropping five of seven there to start the season. … With D Jeff Woywitka scratched, D Anton Stralman made his Rangers debut. He was signed as a free agent Nov. 5. … New York fell to 4-1-3 in one-goal games. … Florida is 6-1-1 when leading after the first period.