NEW YORK (AP) — Aleksander Barkov and the Florida Panthers know they have a tough road if they want to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Barkov helped them take a step in the right direction as he scored in the third period and added the winner in the shootout as the Panthers beat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Friday night.
“I didn’t know what to do at first, but when I got closer to the net, I saw some space on the glove side and I tried to put it in there, but … I’m happy that it worked,” Barkov said of his shootout goal.
Jaromir Jagr had two assists and passed Hall of Famer Gordie Howe for the most points after turning 40 with 269 (104 goals, 165 assists).
Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and assist and Jussi Jokinen also scored for Florida. James Reimer made 29 saves for the Panthers. Reimer made his seventh straight start with Roberto Luongo out because of a lower-body injury.
“They jumped on us. We weren’t ready for it and it was tough for Reimer,” Jagr said.
Florida has 73 points, five behind Toronto, which is in the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers also trail the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay, both with 77 points.
The Panthers entered the game coming off a 2-1 loss to Columbus on Thursday and got off to a slow start against the Rangers and regrouped after taking an early timeout.
“We had a pretty bad start. We thought we were ready, but we were not because it’s a tough building to play, but at the same time it’s a fun building to play in,” Barkov said.
“We took that timeout, and after that we started to play well, and we started to shoot the puck more and play in their zone.”
Mats Zuccarello scored two goals and J.T. Miller also tallied for the Rangers, who were unable to hold an early 2-0 lead. Brendan Smith added two assists.
Antti Raanta made his fourth consecutive start in place of the injured Henrik Lundqvist and finished with 34 saves.
“When you lose a game in overtime or a shootout it’s always a disappointment,” Raanta said. “Of course you want to give yourself one or two goals, not three every night. You want to be the guy who can help the team to win.
The Rangers have lost six straight home games (0-4-2) since beating Washington 2-1 on Feb. 19.
“I said it this morning and I’m going to say it again. 200 by 85, whether you’re here or in Philly or anywhere else, it’s the same ice surface,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said of his team’s 19-15-3 mark at MSG.
“For 30 minutes we were able to play a real strong game. You have to put 60 minutes together. There’s no overthinking about it, it’s just as simple as that.”
Tied 2-2 after two periods, Barkov put the Panthers ahead at 7:23 of the third. Huberdeau entered the zone and sent a pass to Jagr, who passed to Barkov and scored his 19th of the season.
Zuccarello tied it a little more than four minutes later with his 14th of the season at 11:45.
Trailing 2-0 after the first period, the Panthers tied the game in the second.
Alex Petrovic launched a shot from the point and Huberdeau swept in the rebound past Raanta at 1:25 for his sixth goal of the season. A little more than five minutes later, the Panthers took advantage of their power play. Jokinen made a pass to Jason Demers. Demers sent a pass to Thomas Vanek and he sent a cross-ice pass Jokinen, who scored into a wide-open net to make it 2-2 at 6:41.
“They came on us so hard and so fast. So I knew we were going to be OK once we got our legs,” Panthers coach Tom Rowe said.
“I just told the guys, `Settle down and play our systems and let’s chip our way back into it.’ But it was unbelievable the way the guys stuck with it.”
The Rangers had grabbed an early lead with two goals in a 97-second span in the first period.
Michael Grabner used his speed on scoring chance and drew a hooking penalty. With the Rangers on the power play, Chris Krieder skated up the left wing and centered a pass to Zuccarello, who one-timed it past Reimer for his 13th at 2:34.
Then Smith forced a turnover and passed to Miller, who wristed a shot past Reimer from the faceoff circle at 4:11 for his 20th.
Reimer allowed two goals on his first three shots. He rebounded later in the period to make a nice glove save on Derek Stepan to keep it a two-goal deficit.
Panthers D Aaron Ekblad missed his third consecutive game because of a concussion. He is expected to miss another week. … Miller has reached the 20-goal mark for the second consecutive season. Zuccarello has reached the 50-point mark for the second consecutive season and for the third time in the past four seasons. … Kreider extended his point streak to five games and his assist streak to four games, tying career highs in both categories. … Rangers F Jesper Fast returned after missing seven games because of an upper-body injury sustained in the third period of a 4-1 loss to Washington on Feb. 28.
Panthers: Travel to Pittsburgh to face the Stanley Cup champs on Sunday afternoon.
Rangers: Travel to Minnesota to face the Wild on Saturday night.