The New York Rangers missed a prime opportunity to secure a playoff spot.
Marcel Goc and Drew Shore scored third-period goals, and the Florida Panthers prevented the Rangers from clinching an Eastern Conference playoff berth with a 3-2 victory on Tuesday night.
Goc broke a tie, and Drew Shore added a short-handed, empty-net goal to give Florida a 3-1 lead before the Rangers got back within a goal.
Tomas Fleischmann netted the first goal of the game and added an assist, and Jacob Markstrom stopped 36 shots for the Panthers, who have the fewest points in the NHL and snapped a six-game losing streak.
Derick Brassard and Taylor Pyatt scored for the Rangers (24-18-4) and Henrik Lundqvist made 13 saves. New York, the eighth-place team in the East, could have gotten back into the playoffs with a win after Winnipeg lost earlier Tuesday.
”That’s good news. The only good news we got tonight,” Rangers center Brad Richards said. ”But we don’t want to back in. We’ll get back to work and still control our fate if we win. That’s all we can ask for.”
The Rangers, who had won three straight, have a one-point lead over Winnipeg with two games left. The Jets have one game remaining.
The Rangers had scored 18 goals in their previous three wins but were stymied by the Panthers defense and Markstrom.
New York pulled Lundqvist for an extra skater after the Rangers received a late power play. But Shore scored into the empty net with 1:23 left.
His shot from the left circle in his own zone went into the net from about 120 feet away. It was Shore’s first point in 18 games and first goal in 22.
”I’ll take it at this point,” Shore said. ”It’s been a disappointing year offensively but it feels good to win a game, especially at home against a good playoff team.”
Brassard scored with 33 seconds left for the Rangers, but Markstrom blocked two shots in the final seconds to seal the win – his second over New York this season.
”Beating anybody is really good. I don’t have that many wins so hopefully we can build on that and get a couple more before the year ends,” Markstrom said.
The Panthers took a 2-1 lead when Goc scored a power-play goal at 7:37 of the third. Fleischmann made a nice pass from the right circle to Goc in the slot, who redirected the puck into the net.
Rangers coach John Tortorella felt the game turned on that play.
”Not getting the puck out when you’re killing a penalty, that’s when they score their second goal,” Tortorella said. ”It’s killed us all year long with our penalty killing. We have two separate tries to get it out.
”It’s 1-1, we have full control of the game. I think we take a penalty that we don’t need to take and we don’t get the puck out.”
The Rangers had tied it on Pyatt’s goal earlier in the third. Mats Zuccarello took a shot from below the left circle, and the puck rebounded into traffic in front. The puck hit several Rangers and then glanced off the skate of Florida’s Colby Robak and went in at 2:35.
There were many Rangers fans in attendance, hoping to see their team clinch a playoff spot, but in the end it was the Florida fans who were cheering.
”It was a tight, hard-fought game and it was nice to get one here in front of our fans and shut theirs up,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead on Fleischmann’s goal in the second period. Filip Kuba took a shot from the top of the left circle, and Fleischmann tipped the puck past Lundqvist at 5:04.
Florida’s two shots in the first period tied a season low, a mark established on Saturday at New Jersey.
NOTES: Lundqvist made his 12th consecutive start and 41st of the season. … Rangers F Brian Boyle missed his fourth straight game with a leg injury. … Panthers C Quinton Howden missed the game because of illness. … F Tomas Kopecky, who missed his first game of the season on Sunday, returned to the Panthers lineup. C Peter Mueller returned after missing four games following the birth of a boy.