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Lethargic Rangers saved by Cam Talbot in fifth straight win

Cam Talbot #33 of the New York Rangers

Cam Talbot #33 of the New York Rangers makes a save in the second period against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, March 15, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Just burn the video.

That's what coach Alain Vigneault said he wanted to do Sunday after the Rangers survived one of their poorest defensive games of the season, yet found a way to defeat the Florida Panthers, 2-1, at the Garden for their fifth straight win.

The Rangers rode a sensational, career-high 38-save effort by Cam Talbot and goals by understudies Matt Hunwick and James Sheppard.

"You try to analyze it any way you want; at the end of an 82-game schedule, you're going to have some nights like this," Vigneault said. "No doubt that it was all about Cam. Not only from the start, but in the second period where we barely touched the puck. I think they had close to 100 shot attempts, so one player gave us a chance to get two points, and we were fortunate he was on top of his game."

The scoresheet read 98 Florida shot attempts, broken down to 39 shots on goal, 36 Rangers blocks (a franchise record) and 23 misses.

The Panthers played a road game on Saturday, as did the Rangers, but they were more desperate and had a little more in the tank as they battle for a wild-card playoff berth.

But it was the Rangers, at home after a 4-0-1 road trip, who grabbed two more points, upping their total to 95, one shy of the 96 they collected all of last season. And they have 14 games to play.

"We just stuck with it. We were doing our best in front to make sure he [Talbot] can see everything, blocking shots when we had to," Dan Girardi said. "That's kind of been our attitude for a little while. We know tonight wasn't our best effort by far, but Cam made some big saves again, Shep comes in with a huge goal in the first and Hunny, with a great shot in the third, gives us a two-goal lead."

The Rangers are tied with the Ducks for the NHL lead in points (and have three games in hand) and are five points ahead of the second-place Islanders in the Metropolitan Division (also with three games in hand). In their last seven games, they have allowed one goal or fewer in regulation.

Sheppard, filling in for Tanner Glass, scored off a deflection of Hunwick's shot at 17:44 of the first period. It was his first goal in three games as a Ranger since arriving from San Jose at the March 2 trade deadline and the lone score through two periods. Talbot made it stand up with 20 saves in the second, which the Panthers dominated.

"There were shots coming from everywhere," Talbot said. "We couldn't really break their cycle too much. And when we did, we kind of left it in the zone, and they would come right back at us. Luckily we were able to weather the storm."

Hunwick, playing his second consecutive game for the injured Kevin Klein, scored on a slapper through traffic that eluded Dan Ellis at 8:36 of the third for a 2-0 lead. It was Hunwick's first goal as a Ranger.

Brandon Pirri ripped a shot past Talbot to trim the lead to 2-1 at 10:11, but the Rangers held on, killing a third power play with 2:26 left and Ellis pulled.

"He stood on his head a few times," Hunwick said of Talbot, who earned his 17th victory. "Our top guys have been great all year, but sometimes it's the guys maybe you wouldn't expect that help you win those close games once in a while."

New York Sports