Blueshirts pound Panthers

Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard each scored a pair of goals to lead the New York Rangers to a 6-1 rout of the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden.

Rick Nash added a goal and two assists to the win, which kept the Rangers in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference heading into its last five regular-season games.

New York is currently tied with Winnipeg in the standings, but owns a game in hand on the Jets.

Brad Richards scored once and assisted on another for New York, with Henrik Lundqvist doing his part as well by turning aside 34-of-35 shots between the pipes.

"We just made plays tonight," Brassard remarked. "We played a fast game and we just executed and guys finished. It's a big win and a big two points for us."

Jonathan Huberdeau recorded the lone goal for the cellar-dwelling Panthers, who have now been outscored by a 21-6 margin in losing their last four matchups. Scott Clemmensen finished with 24 saves in the setback.

Facing the NHL's worst penalty-killing team this season, the Rangers cashed in on each of their first two power-play opportunities to build a two-goal advantage and never trailed thereafter.

The first came just over three minutes after the opening faceoff, with the Panthers' Eric Gudbrandson in the box for concealing the puck. Ryan Callahan missed wide from in close, but Nash corralled the carom and delivered a behind-the-net pass that Brassard knocked home.

Nash made it 2-0 a little over six minutes later, beating Clemmensen to the stick side with a wrister from the right circle with Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov sent off for hooking Zuccarello.

"It was huge for us to score the first two goals on the power play," said Brassard. "We have been struggling (in that area), so to score the first goal in the game means a lot."

The Panthers were able to cut the deficit in half before the end of the period, however. A rush up the ice ended when Huberdeau put a nifty fake on Zuccarello before rocketing the puck past Lundqvist through traffic with 3:43 left in the frame.

Lundqvist kept New York in front by stoning Quinton Howden on a breakaway attempt shortly afterward, then came up with 11 more stops during a second period in which Zuccarello produced the only goal.

Ryane Clowe fought off a check from behind the Florida net before sending a centering pass that Zuccarello collected and successfully went upstairs on Clemmensen with a backhander 3:26 prior to the second intermission.

The Rangers then ripped off three goals within a span of under 3 1/2 minutes in the final period to put the contest well out of reach.

Zuccarello began the barrage by tipping in a pass Richards slid into the crease to make the score 4-1 with 4:49 left to play. Just 84 seconds afterward, Brassard one-timed a give from Michael Del Zotto while stationed in the left slot for the recent trade acquisition's first two-goal effort as a Ranger.

Richards put the finishing touches on the lopsided win by getting free down the left side of the ice, then converting a wraparound of his own rebound with 1:24 remaining.

"The game finished ugly," stated Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen. "That's the nature of it. [Teams fighting for the playoffs] are what we're going to see from here on out. They are cookie monsters out there, hungry at the end of the game."

Game Notes

Zuccarello recorded the second two-goal effort of his career, with the first coming against Philadelphia on Mar. 6, 2011 ... The 19-year-old Huberdeau now has 28 points on the season, surpassing Radek Dvorak's franchise mark by a teenager of 27 ... The Rangers went 2-for-4 on the power play after failing to score in 14 chances with the man advantage over their previous four tilts ... Rangers forward Brian Boyle missed the game due to a leg injury sustained in Tuesday's 4-2 loss at Philadelphia ... With defensemen Filip Kuba (lower body) and Tyson Strachan (upper body) out of the lineup, the Panthers recalled rookie blueliner Alex Petrovic from AHL San Antonio on Thursday for his NHL debut ... Callahan finished with two assists while skating in his 400th career NHL game.