Panthers 4, Rangers 3
What we saw ...
1 Asleep at the wheel — Prior to last night’s 4-3 loss, coach John Tortorella admitted to being concerned his players might have mentally checked out before the game, already daydreaming about the All-Star break. The Rangers skated, shot and were able to generate offense off the forecheck and cycle, but Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t sharp. The goals Florida scored were soft and odd-angled, none more so than Mike Weaver’s first goal in 42 games, which turned out to be the game-winner. The puck bounced off Rangers forward Artem Anisimov and past Lundqvist to break a 3-3 tie with 8:19 left. It is illogical to ascribe long-term concern about Lundqvist, as he has been among the league’s best goaltenders this season. Still, with the games gaining in importance starting Feb. 1, he’ll need to be at his best in order for this team to have a long spring. He can’t concede four goals on just 17 shots like he did last night.
2 Usual suspects — There have been a multitude of players that have stepped up for the Rangers in the first half of the season, none more than checking line center Brian Boyle and left wing Brandon Prust. The duo each scored a goal in the first three minutes of the third period to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 3-3 tie. Prust’s goal, in which the puck deflected in off his thigh, was his seventh of the season, while Boyle’s power-play tally was his team-leading 18th marker.
3 Missing key cogs — Perhaps this outcome should have been expected for a team playing its fifth game in seven nights and has been patchwork for about six weeks. The Rangers had five AHL call-ups dress last night, including Mats Zuccarello, who assisted on all three Rangers goals and looks to be a keeper even when the injured starters return to the team in the second half.