They accomplished both Thursday night. Rostislav Olesz capped a three-goal rally midway through the third period to give the Panthers a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers. Chris Gratton and Nathan Horton also scored for Florida, which won after trailing in the third for the first time in 16 games this season. The victory also gave the Panthers their first three-game winning streak of the season.
“A lot of our games in December could easily have been victories,” Florida coach Jacques Martin said. “Our play has picked up and we need to get results now.”
Brad Isbister and Jason Ward scored for the Rangers, who have lost a season-high four in a row.
“We had the game in our hands,” Rangers defenceman Darius Kasparaitis said. “When things are not going well, you find ways to lose.”
Ed Belfour stopped 30 shots for Florida, including a key save on Brendan Shanahan with about 20 seconds left. Kevin Weekes made 33 saves for the Rangers.
Olesz’s game-winner, his third goal in three games, came when he grabbed a rebound in front of the net and wrapped it around Weekes.
Gratton and Horton scored 21 seconds apart in the third period. Gratton scored on the power play at 3:03 when he tipped in Janis Sprukts’ pass from the side of the net. Horton tied it after a turnover in the Rangers’ end and beat Weekes with a wrist shot from the slot.
“We played well in a lot of facets the first two periods,” Weekes said. “In the third period, we kind of lapsed for a while. We fell asleep and made a couple of costly mistakes during that six-, seven-minute window and that really cost us.”
Isbister opened the scoring with 3.8 seconds left in the first period on the Rangers’ sixth power play of the game. With nine seconds left in the period, the Rangers got the faceoff back to the point and Karel Rachunek fired a shot through traffic that Isbister tipped off the post.
Ward made it 2-0 at 4:13 of the second period with a one-timer that beat Belfour to the glove side.
Notes: Florida C Stephen Weiss missed his fourth consecutive game because of a shoulder injury. … Rangers C Michael Nylander didn’t make the trip to Florida as he sat out his third consecutive game because of a stomach flu. … The teams split their four games this season, the first time since 1999-00 the Rangers didn’t win the series. … Sprukts’ assist was his first NHL point in his third career game. … The Rangers entered the game 12-0-2 when leading after two periods.