Rangers aim to build momentum against lowly Panthers

The New York Rangers will try to continue heading in the right direction when they host the Florida Panthers for Thursday's battle at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers ended a three-game losing streak with a shootout win Monday against Carolina and the next night won a 3-2 regulation decision at New Jersey.

Tuesday's victory allowed New York to pull even with the Devils for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Rangers, Devils and Carolina Hurricanes are currently tied for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference with 32 points apiece. New Jersey and Carolina are playing Thursday night in Raleigh.

The Blueshirts will try to build momentum Thursday against a Florida team that is last in the NHL with 22 points.

This is the first of three scheduled meetings between the clubs this season. The Rangers have won three straight and eight of the last 11 encounters in this series and Florida has dropped its last three tests at MSG.

Rick Nash provided the game-winner in Tuesday's victory over the Devils, scoring the deciding goal 7:25 into the second period. Henrik Lundqvist made the 3-2 lead stand with 29 saves.

Michael Del Zotto assisted on Nash's game-winner and also delivered a short- handed goal earlier on for New York. Carl Hagelin added the other goal for New York.

"I thought we stuck with it," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said afterward. "Henrik makes three great saves in that second period, (then) we go down and score."

Nash's goal, his 10th of the season, ended the star winger's five-game goalless drought.

Florida, meanwhile, was able to end a six-game losing streak with Tuesday's 4-1 win at Carolina. Jacob Markstrom made 33 saves and the Panthers scored all of their goals in the third period.

Tomas Fleischmann, Marcel Goc and Shawn Matthias each scored in the final 12:21 to help the league-worst Panthers snap an 0-5-1 slide. It was the first win for Florida since March 5 against Winnipeg.

Jerred Smithson also added an empty-net goal in what was Florida's eighth win in 30 games this season.

Matthias scored his ninth goal of the season despite battling flu-like symptoms.

"I couldn't let my teammates go out there without me, I wanted to battle with them and end this slump and it feels good to have the win," Matthias said. "I don't care how bad I feel, it feels good right now."

Florida was beginning a five-game road trip on Tuesday and earned its first win as the guest since beating Philadelphia on Feb. 22.

New York is 10-5-1 as the host this season, while the Panthers are 4-8-1 on the road.