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Mika Zibanejad, Rangers outlast Panthers

Jan 1, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA;  New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) scores a goal past Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) during the first period at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Mika Zibanejad scored twice to lead the visiting New York Rangers to a 5-3 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday night in Sunrise, Fla.

The Rangers, who never trailed, also got one goal and one assist apiece from Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and ex-Panther Vincent Trocheck. Adam Fox and Kaapo Kakko each had two assists.

Rangers backup goalie Jaroslav Halak, making his first start in more than two weeks, posted 32 saves.

The Rangers went 2-for-4 on the power play. They had scored just once on their previous 17 man-advantage chances.

Rangers winger Alexis Lafreniere, back after being benched for the first time this season, had one shot on goal in his return.

Sam Bennett, Nick Cousins and Eric Staal scored for the Panthers, who got 23 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky.

The Panthers slipped to 1-5-0 in their past six games. They have lost two straight contests, and they haven’t won consecutive games since Dec. 1-3.

New York opened the scoring with 14:36 gone in the first period as Zibanejad skated around defenseman Radko Gudas. Zibanejad then lost control of the puck, but it trickled in between Bobrovsky’s pads for a power-play goal.

Both teams scored twice in the second period.

Off a pass from Kakko, Zibanejad made it 2-0 by roofing the puck over Bobrovsky’s right shoulder.

The Panthers, taking advantage of a bad Rangers line change, cut their deficit to 2-1 as Cousins scored from the right circle. Halak, who was screened on the play, managed to get his blocker on the puck, but it trickled into the net.

Kreider extended New York’s lead to 3-1, scoring from the slot on a centering pass from Kakko past a diving Aaron Ekblad. Fox got the secondary assist for finding Kakko with a cross-ice pass.

Bennett’s power-play tally closed the second-period scoring, cutting Florida’s deficit to 3-2. Carter Verhaeghe’s shot created a long rebound, and Bennett snapped it in from the left circle.

Trocheck and Staal traded goals within the first three minutes of the third period, leaving the Rangers with a 4-3 lead.

Panarin then jumped on a loose puck after his pass was broken up, and his goal with 9:56 left gave New York a 5-3 lead.

Bennett had a would-be goal with 25 seconds left, but it was waved off due to a high stick.

–Field Level Media