SUNRISE, Fla. – As the game went on, Dan Girardi’s mistake became magnified.
Luckily for Girardi and the New York Rangers, the defenceman redeemed himself in a big way.
After a giveaway by Girardi in the second period resulted in a goal for the Florida Panthers, Girardi tied it late in regulation to send the game to overtime.
Brad Richards then netted the lone goal in the shootout to give the Rangers a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night.
“It felt pretty good,” Girardi said. “It’s kind of disappointing when one bad play can kind of ruin a game for the team and yourself, so I’m glad I could put one in there and kind of redeem myself a little bit.”
In the shootout, Richards beat Tim Thomas with a wrist shot to the top left corner after Thomas stopped the first two New York attempts.
“That’s a great move from a great player,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.
Henrik Lundqvist made a save against Brad Boyes to seal the Rangers’ victory.
“I corrected my thinking a little bit in the way I approached (the shootout),” Lundqvist said. “I slowed down a little bit and I had more control.”
Girardi scored with 2:10 left in regulation with a wrist shot from the left circle to beat Thomas after Derek Stepan found Girardi with a pass as he broke in from the blue line. The goal prevented Thomas from earning his first NHL shutout in nearly two years.
“It was one of those nights where if I could see it I could save it,” Thomas said. “I thought we were going to hang on until the end there, but that’s hockey.”
Thomas maintained his composure and came up with four saves in overtime, including one from close range by Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh.
Thomas made 30 saves through overtime, and Lundqvist stopped 21 shots in the third and final meeting between the teams this season.
“It was a really hard-fought game by both teams,” Vigneault said. “There wasn’t a lot of room out there.”
Florida broke through in the second period on Boyes’ 10th goal of the season. Girardi retrieved a loose puck, and his pass attempt from behind the net was intercepted by Aleksander Barkov, who quickly fed the puck to Boyes in front. Boyes beat Lundqvist with a backhander between his pads.
Lundqvist was able to keep it a 1-0 deficit despite a 4-minute penalty to Richards midway through the third period when he high-sticked Nick Bjugstad in the face.
“I definitely feel like we’d like our special teams to be better,” Panthers coach Peter Horachek said.
New York went 0 for 3 on the power play after scoring three power-play goals on three chances Sunday in a 4-3 win at Tampa Bay. The Rangers came in with at least one power-play goal in five of their last six games.
“We had some grade-A scoring opportunities,” Vigneault said. “The only thing we didn’t do was put it past their goaltender, who obviously was on top of his game.”
Rangers defenceman Marc Staal made his return after missing 10 games because of a concussion sustained on Dec. 7 against New Jersey. He played nearly 24 minutes, the third-highest total on the team.
“I felt pretty good,” Staal said. “I think anytime you’re out for that long you just want to feel the puck and make the plays you normally make. For the most part I felt I did that. It was a good start.”
It was the midway point of the season for both teams. The Rangers improved to 20-19-2.
“We’re one game above .500. We need to get better,” Vigneault said.
The Panthers dropped to 15-20-6.
“We just need to keep this thing going, getting points and climb in the standings,” Boyes said. “We’ve got to get better. If we keep doing what we’re doing, the good things will happen.”
NOTES: New York won the first two meetings, outscoring the Panthers 9-5. … The Rangers are 3-1 in shootouts, Florida is 4-5. … Barkov has a four-game point streak (1-3-4) and nine points in 10 games. … Thomas played in his 400th NHL game. His last shutout was on March 19, 2012, against Toronto when he was with Boston. … Florida tied the franchise-record with 17 points in December, whichhas been done four other times. … New York will continue its road trip at Pittsburgh on Friday. Florida will host Nashville on Saturday.