Derek Dorsett celebrates with teammates after he scored against the...

Derek Dorsett celebrates with teammates after he scored against the Florida Panthers. (Nov. 10, 2013) Credit: Ray Stubblebine

Brad Richards, who hadn't scored in eight-plus games, missed an easy tap-in off a pass from Carl Hagelin that would've given the Rangers the lead late in the second period. At the next stoppage, Richards broke his stick in two against the right post in frustration.

"It was starting to build," the center said. "The last few games I had good chances . . . and especially when Hags gives you an open net. I'm surprised he kept giving it to me."

But on the next opportunity, Richards got a measure of redemption. Just 46 seconds into the third period, he snapped a feed from Hagelin past goaltender Tim Thomas for the Rangers' third goal en route to a 4-3 victory over the Panthers Sunday night that extended their winning streak to three.

Mats Zuccarello provided a cushion when he one-timed a blast from the right circle on a five-on-three at 6:16 of the third for a 4-2 lead. The Madison Square Garden crowd crooned "Zoook!" to celebrate.

Refusing to yield, the Panthers closed the gap to one on Brian Campbell's second goal of the game with 7:03 left.

That ended a nine-game stretch in which the Rangers (9-8 and over .500 for the first time this season) had allowed two or fewer goals. The Rangers have won seven of their last nine games and have outscored opponents 19-9 in the past five.

The Panthers (3-11-4), whose coaching staff was fired Friday, had one final chance to tie it after Chris Kreider cross-checked Scottie Upshall at 18:45. Thomas was pulled for a two-man advantage, but Henrik Lundqvist (24 saves) preserved the win.

For most of the first two periods, the Panthers had the better of the play, and it seemed similar to games last season against weaker teams that the Rangers would lose.

"It was a great win, but we didn't play up to our standards," Zuccarello said. "The next game we've got to be much better. We pushed the pace a little bit extra when we were down 2-1. It made us realize we had to get going."

The Rangers took a 1-0 lead when J.T. Miller finished a tic-tac-toe passing sequence for his first of the season at 9:49. Ryan McDonagh stickhandled around a check at the left point and went to Kreider on the right side, who found Miller.

The Rangers -- who are 8-1-0 when scoring first and lead the NHL with three goals in five-on-three situations -- had killed 28 of the previous 32 power plays, but with Brian Boyle off for hooking, Alex Barkov got the puck past Lundqvist at 19:33 to tie.

Florida took a 2-1 lead on Campbell's goal, but Derek Dorsett tied it with a second-effort tally at 13:58, following up his wraparound shot.

"Dorsett's goal was a big one," said Richards, who had an assist on Zuccarello's score. "It got us back and we had five or six good shifts that got the building back in it."

Florida outshot the Rangers 9-3 in the first half of the second period, but Lundqvist kept it close.

"I gave up three goals and I'm not super-happy about it," he said. "They had stretches where they made it real tough for us. But Dorsett's goal gave us confidence that we can do this, that we've been here before."

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