The Rangers' special teams have not been special this season. But at the time of year in which wins and losses are most vital, it was those units that led the way.
The Rangers wake up Friday morning still in the eighth spot after the specialty units were strong in a 6-1 rout of the Panthers Thursday night at the Garden.
“The special teams played really well,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said.
Derick Brassard and Rick Nash gave the Rangers all the offense they would need in the first period as the duo scored two power-play goals in a six-minute span of first period. The Rangers finished 2-for-4 on the power play and penalty kill units eliminated Florida’s only man-advantage opportunity. The Rangers’ penalty killers are 21-for-23 in the last nine games
“You want to get your power play going. I think it’s a reason why we lose, because of our power play. It’s good. [We] made some good plays. To score quick power play goals to get started was important to us,” head coach John Tortorella said.
“The penalty killing has been good. In the last six or seven games [it] has give us a chance to stay in the game when our power play is not working that well.”
Nash finished with three points, and Brassard, Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello had two points. Eleven Rangers were plus-1 or better and ten players recorded at least one point. Lundqvist made 34 saves to win his 20th game of the season.
“I don’t give a crap who contributes,” Tortorella said. “It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t give a crap whether [it is new], old, veteran, rookie as long as we get contributions from everybody. That’s the only way we’re going to find a way. We have to keep on finding people to contribute.”
Even with the win, the Rangers remain as the No. 8 seed. They entered the game three points behind the seventh-seeded Islanders, who beat Toronto 5-3. The Rangers are in Buffalo, which they lead by four points, Friday night. Winnipeg, who beat Carolina 4-3 in overtime, trail the Rangers by two points.
But as they noted, the Rangers are in the enviable position of not needing help to reach the playoffs.
“It’s very important,” Richards said. “It’s all you can really ask for when you put yourself in [the] situation [that the Rangers are in]. The main thing you can ask for is that it’s in our hand. We can do what we need to do and it will be on us if something doesn’t happen. We plan on being in there and moving up. We just have to get in.”
Jonathan Huberdeau’s 14th goal of the season was Florida’s only score. Scott Clemmensen allowed all six goals on 30 shots.
“I felt that if we were going to give ourselves a chance to win this game from three goals back we had to push extremely hard. The game finished ugly and that’s the nature of it,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “That’s what we are going to see every time against these guys. They’re Cookie Monsters that are certainly out there and hungry at the end of the game.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.