Jaroslav Halak impresses again for Rangers

SUNRISE, Fla. – Jaroslav Halak made his second consecutive impressive appearance in net, albeit 15 days apart.

For the 37-year-old, who had gone 1-6-1 in his first eight starts, won his second straight by stopping 32 of 35 shots after being a difference maker in the Rangers’ sixth empty-netter. -3 wins at Philadelphia on December 17th.

Halak was especially important during the second period and early in the third, when the Panthers made several runs on the Rangers and crashed the net repeatedly.

Igor Shesterkin had hit the last five straight for the Blueshirts, who play at home Tuesday against Carolina before games in Montreal on Thursday and New Jersey on Saturday afternoon.

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“He is in our team. He’s a big part of our group,” coach Gerard Gallant said when asked why he gave Halak the start. “He’s been really good.”

Rangers goalkeeper Jaroslav Halak (41) and center Mika Zibanejad (93) embrace after a win over the Panthers on Sunday.

Jonny Brodzinski was out of uniform on Sunday, the fourth-line center serving as a healthy scratch to accommodate Alexis Lafreniere’s return to the lineup after his game in street clothes in Tampa on Thursday.

Brodzinski had hit an 11-game hitting streak after hitting the Dec. 3 game at the Garden against the Blackhawks on the day he was recalled by the AHL Wolf Pack. The 29-year-old had registered two points (1-1) with a plus-three rating in five-on-five (on five goals for and two against) taking an average ice time of 9:41 per.

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No. 76 is one of two Rangers centers with a winning streak; Brodzinski’s 53.3 percent (40 wins, 35 losses) ranks second behind Vincent Trocheck’s 56.3 percent.

Libor Hajek sat as a healthy scratch on defense for the eighth straight game.

The Rangers entered the game 0-for-8 on the power play in their last two games and 1-for-17 in their last four contests.

The 16-17-6 Panthers entered the game having lost one fewer game in regulation under coach Paul Maurice than they lost all of last year while winning the Presidents Trophy as the NHL’s best regular-season team at 58-18-6 under the combination of Joel Quenneville (7-0) and Andrew Brunette behind the bench.

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Black, fired after Tampa Bay’s second-round sweep of Florida, is working as an assistant coach for the Devils under Lindy Ruff.

The Panthers started the day eight points out of a playoff spot, having to overcome four teams – Buffalo, Detroit, Rangers and Islanders – in order to secure a wild-card spot.

Since the end of World War II, there have only been five instances in which a team missed the playoffs a year after finishing with the best regular season record in the NHL.

The Bruins, who won the Presidents Trophy in 2013-14 but missed the playoffs the following season, are the latest club to achieve the dubious distinction.


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