New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) – Cam Talbot made 38 saves and the New York Rangers earned a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
James Sheppard got his first goal since joining the Rangers on March 1 in a trade with San Jose, and Matt Hunwick potted his first goal of the season as New York won its fifth straight game.
The Rangers lead the Metropolitan Division by five points over the rival New York Islanders.
Brandon Pirri scored in the third period and Dan Ellis stopped 32 shots for the Panthers, who were seeking a season-high fourth straight win.
“I thought we played a helluva game,” said Florida coach Gerard Gallant. “We worked, we really competed and had a lot of great scoring chances. Disappointed not to get any points out of it, but can’t ask for much more from our team.”
Florida remains six points out of a playoff spot.
The Rangers grabbed a 2-0 lead at 8:37 of the third when Hunwick fired a slap shot from just inside the blueline that went in off Ellis’ left shoulder.
Pirri beat Talbot five-hole with a wrister following a faceoff win at 10:11.
Florida went on a power play with 2:35 remaining after Ryan McDonagh hooked Jonathan Huberdeau and pulled Ellis for a 6-on-4 advantage, but it couldn’t get the equalizer past Talbot.
Hunwick fired a shot from above the right circle that was deflected by Dominic Moore before Sheppard chipped the puck in at the right side of the net with 2:16 remaining in the opening period.
The Panthers’ Jussi Jokinen had an open net in the dying seconds but Dan Girardi tied up his stick, which allowed Talbot to freeze the puck.
Talbot made 20 saves in the second period, including a stop against Jaromir Jagr on a 2-on-1 rush.
“We were very fortunate that our goaltender was on top of his game,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault.
New York has allowed one goal or fewer in six of its last seven games … Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle was honored in a pregame ceremony for recently playing his 1,000th career NHL game … Hunwick ended a 93-game goal drought by scoring for the first time since March 17, 2012 … The Rangers have won six straight games against the Panthers … Moore had two assists.