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Fluke goal gives Panthers win over Rangers

Mike Weaver #43 of the Florida Panthers celebrates

Mike Weaver #43 of the Florida Panthers celebrates his third period goal against the New York Rangers with his teammates. (Jan. 25, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Artem Anisimov scored the shootout winner Monday at Washington. Tuesday night, the Rangers' Russian center sat at his locker and talked about his misfortune in a 4-3 loss to the Panthers in the final game before the All-Star break.

"Me? Two goals," he said, holding up his fingers. "Two bad bounces . . . unlucky. The first one hit my stick; the fourth one hit my back, goes up in the air and Hank couldn't see it. Sometimes it happens."

After the Rangers staged another third-period comeback, scoring twice in the first 3:05 to tie it at 3, the Panthers' only shot of the period, by Mike Weaver, was a riser that was going past the net. But the puck hit Anisimov and bounced tantalizingly high, over and behind Henrik Lundqvist and rolled into the cage at 11:41 for the deciding goal.

"I don't think they had any business winning this game," Lundqvist said. "The luck they had is just bothering me a lot right now."

Making it more annoying was that it was Weaver's first goal in 42 games, and that the Panthers were outshot 35-17.

In their fifth game in seven nights and second game of their league-high 14th back-to-back, the Rangers came up short. For a while, it appeared that the Blueshirts, who have lost 193 man-games to injuries and were dressing six rookies, had another rally in their bones, having erased a two-goal deficit on goals by Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle.

Prust deflected Michael Sauer's shot from the right point between Tomas Vokoun and the near post at 1:14. Mats Zuccarello had retrieved the puck behind the net and found Sauer open.

Then, when Mike Santorelli, who had scored in the second, was sent off for holding at 1:58, the Rangers scored their first power-play goal in the last nine tries. Boyle, put on the power play in recent games, jammed in a rebound of Marian Gaborik's backhander at 3:05 to tie it for the second time. Zuccarello assisted on all three goals.

"Even when we were down 4-3, I still thought we were going to overcome it," said coach John Tortorella, who praised his team's refusal to give in before a six-day hiatus. "That's the way it works; we scored a couple of those along the way."

The only goal in the first period came on a high, glove-side blast by a trailing Rostislav Olesz at 12:35 that hit Anisimov's stick in front. Lundqvist, who is headed to Raleigh, N.C., for the weekend All-Star festivities, faced only four shots in the period.

In the second, Rangers rookie All-Star Derek Stepan flipped in a rebound of Wojtek Wolski's shot. Stepan, skating to his left, flipped it past Vokoun on his second attempt at 2:17.

The Panthers shook that off and surged ahead 3-1 with two goals in 1:08. Keaton Ellerby's shot from the left point deflected off Steve Eminger's glove and past Lundqvist at 3:03. Santorelli slammed in a rebound of Bryan Allen's bomb as Ryan McDonagh tried vainly to check him away.

"We wanted to win at least eight points in five games," said Boyle, whose goal was his team-leading 18th, "so there's a bad taste in my mouth."

But the taste should be sweeter when play resumes against the Penguins on Tuesday. Ryan Callahan (broken hand) and Vinny Prospal (knee surgery) were activated from injured reserve Tuesday night.

New York Sports