Marcel Goc netted the go-ahead goal on the power play in the third period, while Jacob Markstrom turned in a stellar performance between the pipes to lead the Florida Panthers to a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers from the BB&T Center.
Markstrom outdueled reigning Vezina Trophy recipient Henrik Lundqvist with a 36-save effort that enabled the Panthers to halt a six-game losing streak and prevent the Rangers from securing a postseason berth. Tomas Fleischmann added a goal and an assist to the victory, with Drew Shore contributing a key empty- net tally with 1:23 left to play.
"I thought he played great in New York when we won 3-1 (earlier in the season) and I think he was very solid tonight," Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen said of Markstrom. "He did a real good job of settling us down. It was a well- earned victory for Jacob Markstrom."
Lundqvist stopped only 13-of-15 shots for New York, which came in having won three in a row that included a 6-1 rout of the Panthers last Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
Despite the loss, the Rangers still remain in control of the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference after ninth-place Winnipeg fell to Washington on Tuesday. New York owns a one-point lead on the Jets with two games remaining to Winnipeg's one.
"Our goal and our focus right now is just to get in and I don't care how we do it," Lundqvist said. "I don't mind getting help. That's always a good thing. Let's just focus on the next one and see where that takes us."
Taylor Pyatt and Derick Brassard each scored in the third period for the Rangers, with Brassard's coming with 32.9 seconds left.
The teams were deadlocked in a 1-1 tie before the Panthers capitalized on a man-advantage situation after New York's Brad Richards was whistled for a tripping call 6:43 into the third period.
Less than a minute afterward, Goc re-directed a centering pass from Fleischmann past Lundqvist to break the stalemate.
"Not getting the puck out when we're killing a penalty, that's how they scored the second goal," said Rangers head coach John Tortorella of the play. "It's killed us all year long on the penalty kill. We had full control of the game, we take a penalty that we don't need to take, and we don't get the puck out."
Florida was able to kill off a penalty later on to remain ahead, then gained some breathing room when Shore chipped the puck from deep in his own end into the vacated net with Lundqvist pulled for an extra attack.
Brassard scored off a behind-the-net pass from Richards in the waning seconds, but the Rangers soon ran out of time.
The Panthers mustered a mere two shots during a scoreless opening period, but made good on their third attempt of the night to draw first blood.
Just over five minutes into the middle session, Filip Kuba flicked a wrist shot from the left point that Fleischmann got a piece of to redirect by a screened Lundqvist for a 1-0 Florida lead.
Markstrom kept the Panthers in front by stopping all 21 shots he faced over the first two periods, but New York finally broke through against the rookie early in the third.
A hard rush up the ice resulted in Rangers defenseman John Moore skating in close and forcing Markstrom to make a sliding pad save. Pyatt alertly pounced on the loose puck and knocked it through, however, to knot the score at 1-1 with 2:35 elapsed in the session.
The Panthers took the three-game season series with New York by a 2-1 count ... Dating back to the 2011-12 season, Florida is now 30-1-9 when leading after two periods ... Forward Peter Mueller was back in the Florida lineup after missing the last four games to be with his wife while she delivered their first child, while fellow wing Tomas Kopecky also returned for the Panthers after sitting out Sunday's loss at Boston with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, however, did not play after hurting his right arm against the Bruins.