Rangers declaw Cats with a big third period outburst (NYR 6 v FL 3)

Rick Nash scores his 31st of the season (Jared Silber / Getty)

Rick Nash scores his 31st of the season (Jared Silber / Getty)

The Rangers started slow, picked up the pace, got sloppy, then got burned before waking up and destroying the Panthers. That one sentence summarizes last night’s Garden contest to perfection.

RANGERS 6 vs. PANTHERS 3

FL v NYR (2.2.15) ESPN

FL v NYR (2.2.15) ESPN

Sometimes, you just have to scratch your head and wonder, “what are you guys doing?” NY was playing a lackluster first period, when Ryan McDonagh had one of his worst shifts of the season. A giveaway and misplay led to Florida’s Aleksander Barkov opening up the scoring.

The Rangers would settle down and score 3 beauty goals by the halfway point of the game. First it was Rick Nash scoring his 4th shorthanded goal and 30th of the season to knot it up at 1. In the second period, great passing plays led to two more goals by Kevin Hayes and Marc Staal to make it 3-1.

You would think the Rangers would keep the pedal pinned to the ground for the rest of the game, but they didn’t. They blew another two goal lead (I believe that’s the 11th or 12th time this season) and went into the third period tied at 3.

Oddly, it was mild mannered Jesper Fast during his 2nd period intermission interview that said the Rangers would go all out in the third period. To every Ranger fans’ pleasure that is exactly what they did.

First it was Dan Boyle getting a little puck luck off of Willie Mitchell’s stick for the lead. Then it was Mats Zuccarello, who played a great game being rewarded with a juicy rebound for a goal to make it 5-3. The night was capped when the beast named Rick Nash shook off his defender and tapped in an empty netter for his league leading 31st goal.

“Even though they came back and they tied it up in the second period, when the game was on the line in the third, I thought we played our best period,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.

Rick Nash made it very clear as to why the Rangers steamrolled Florida in the final period. “Playing in the third, we didn’t have as many turnovers as we did in the first two periods,” he explained. A point highlighted by Kevin Hayes being demoted to the 4th line.

Hayes was guilty of a big giveaway, was a -2 on the night and won just 3 of the 11 draws he took (27.3%). It is becoming clearer with each passing day that the Rangers are going to have to bring in a legit NHL center and put Hayes in his natural spot of RW.

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The Rangers will meet Boston on Wednesday and look to get payback for a 3-0 defeat in January.

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Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore