Markstrom, Panthers stop Rangers 3-1
NEW YORK (AP) — When the final buzzer sounded at Madison Square Garden, the Swedish goalie celebrated the big win with his teammates.
No, it wasn't Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers this time.
Jacob Markstrom made 44 saves, and he and the cellar-dwelling Florida Panthers stole the spotlight from Lundqvist and the Rangers with a 3-1 win Thursday night.
Markstrom lost a shot at his first NHL shutout in the closing minutes, but it wasn't nearly the bummer it appeared to be.
"Not at all," the 23-year-old native of Gavle, Sweden, said. "We had a great game. It's all about winning games, and we did that, so it feels great.
"I felt really good from the start to the finish."
The Rangers had gotten back into eighth place in the Eastern Conference with wins on two consecutive nights this week after a three-game skid. But Markstrom was sharp and shut down offensively challenged New York.
New York has the same record as Carolina, 15-13-2, but the Hurricanes now hold the eighth spot based on a tiebreaker. If the Rangers fall short of the playoffs in a few weeks, they will likely look back at these lost points.
Markstrom, who has played in only nine games since being recalled from the minor leagues in February, earned his third NHL win of the season and fifth in 17 career games.
He lost his shutout bid when Marian Gaborik cut the Rangers' deficit to 2-1 with 3:48 left, but Markstrom settled for wins in back-to-back games. Gaborik had gone seven games without a goal.
Brian Campbell scored in the first period, and Scottie Upshall made it 2-0 in the second against Henrik Lundqvist, who faced 23 shots. Florida (9-16-6) has the fewest points in the NH
"That's seven or eight solid periods in a row for us," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "That's what we're looking for.
"The points are nice, and that's all we're doing. We're looking for little snapshots, and tonight was a good one for us."
The Rangers had a chance to tie it when they received a power play with just over a minute left, but Tomas Kopecky scored into an empty net with 45.9 seconds remaining to seal it for Florida.
Special teams were key all night as New York failed on all three power plays it had and killed only one of two against.
The Panthers, playing the second game of a season-high, five-game trip, were on a 1-7-2 slide before they won at Carolina on Tuesday in front of Markstrom (3-5-1). This is just the team's second two-game winning streak this season.
That was good enough for Markstrom, who took no extra satisfaction in besting Lundqvist, last season's Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goalie.
"It's a 'W' and that is what's important," he said. "He's a big role model in Sweden for a lot of young kids. He really showed the way. It's always fun to play against him, but when the puck drops it's just me trying to stop the puck."
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