The Rangers ended 2013 with a finishing kick Tuesday night.
After Dan Girardi tied the score at 1 with 2:10 left in regulation, Brad Richards scored in the third round of the shootout and Henrik Lundqvist stopped all three shots as the Rangers rallied for a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers.
"Great move from a great player," coach Alain Vigneault said of Richards' shot that beat Tim Thomas. "It was a really hard-fought game, there wasn't tons of room out there, we had some Grade A scoring opportunities on [three] power plays in the second period, but we stuck with the process and went down to the wire."
In the shootout, Thomas, who hadn't played since Dec. 10, stopped Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan before Richards beat him with a wrister. Lundqvist (21 saves), who won his second straight game, denied Aleksander Barkov, poked away Jonathan Huberdeau's try and stopped Brad Boyes for the victory.
For almost 58 minutes, there were no fireworks, no confetti for the Rangers (20-19-2 at the midway point of the season), who have won four of five and are 2-1 on this five-game road trip.
Trailing 1-0 late in the third and unable to connect on the three power plays, Girardi, whose turnover led to Boyes' goal in the second period, beat Thomas with a wrister that gave him some redemption.
On his miscue, Girardi, in the left corner, tried a pass behind the Rangers net to John Moore that was picked off by Barkov. He found Boyes in front, and the former Islander went to his backhand to slide the puck through Lundqvist for his 10th of the season at 9:18 of the second period.
"I kinda see him but I don't," Girardi said. "He [Barkov] made a smart play, but I've definitely got to make a better play than that. On the goal, I got fortunate, guy loses his stick, and I shoot past a screen."
Midway through the third, Richards bloodied Nick Bjugstad with a high stick, and provided the Panthers with a four-minute power play. The penalty-kill came through, though, and provided a turning point.
"Huge," said Lundqvist, who is now 6-2-1 in his career here and is 3-0 against the Panthers this season. "The last couple weeks feels like we're doing so many good things on the PK. It's so important to have confidence because you're going to take penalties."
A Rangers power play that had connected on all three opportunities in a 4-3 win in Tampa on Sunday and was first in the NHL on the road, was shut down by Thomas (30 saves) and the Panthers (16-20-5) on three chances in the second period.
Girardi's goal gave Lundqvist a chance in overtime, when he stoned Tomas Kopecky in the final seconds, and in the shootout, where he said he changed his approach.
"I corrected my thinking a little bit. I slowed down a little bit so I had more control. A couple times [before], I had too much speed, so today I decided to slow it down and I felt like it was easy for me to make the right move," he said. "I was reading shots the right way."
The team isn't happy "how our first half went but we're happy how we got some wins here in the last five," Girardi said. "We've got to build off it."