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Jokinen's goal gives Panthers sixth straight win, ends Rangers' point run

SUNRISE, Fla. - It took the streaking Florida Panthers to cool off the New York Rangers.

Olli Jokinen's tiebreaking power-play goal 7:12 into the third period stretched the Panthers' winning streak to a season-high six and handed the Rangers their first regulation loss in more than a month, 3-2 on Friday night.

"They're playing great hockey," said Rangers forward Scott Gomez, who scored one of New York's goals. "They stuck to their game plan. Certain guys over there are stepping up their play. Give them credit."

The Rangers had been 10-0-3 since a 4-1 home loss to Anaheim on Feb. 7. One of those victories was a 5-0 shutout over the Panthers on Feb. 24.

"The way we played in New York was kind of embarrassing," Jokinen said. "They outplayed us, they outworked us. We wanted to redeem ourselves."

Florida's winning streak is the third longest in team history.

Rostislav Olesz and Jassen Cullimore also scored for Florida, which is making a push for a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Panthers have 76 points, three fewer than eighth-place Philadelphia.

"I think our best games are still ahead and we keep getting better," Jokinen said. "We're a confident group right now, but the bottom line is we can't get too high."

Dan Girardi had the other goal for the Rangers, sixth in the East with 83 points.

Florida's Tomas Vokoun stopped 32 shots, five more than Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers.

The game, played in front of Florida's fourth home sellout crowd of the season, had a playoff feel.

"It was an awesome game to play in," Panthers centre Stephen Weiss said. "There was a lot of emotion. It's nice to come out with two points."

Jokinen's game-winner was his first goal in nine games.

"I'm not going to lie to you, of course it's nice to score," he said. "But the bottom line is we've been winning games and I think every line has been able to chip in and play pretty good hockey. But it's always nice to score."

With Martin Straka in the penalty box for hooking, Steve Montador took a shot from the point that Lundqvist couldn't glove. Jokinen dug the puck out of a crowd in front and scored his 31st of the season.

"There was a couple rebounds there, and they finally got it in," Lundqvist said. "I picked up (the initial shot) late and kind of reacted late to it. We got stuck with a rebound there and they just kept banging. It was just under my pad."

The Rangers had chances to tie the game late as Florida was called for two penalties in the last 5:34.

The first power play ended after only 13 seconds when Rangers defenceman Fedor Tyutin took a penalty. The second started with 2:06 left, and New York pulled Lundqvist for a sixth attacker during the advantage.

Shortly after Olesz's shot at the empty net from just outside the Florida blue line hit the post with 30 seconds remaining, Rangers forward Chris Drury found himself alone in the slot, but Vokoun stopped his wrist shot.

"You had to like the looks," Gomez said. "We had Chris Drury in the slot there. What can you say? The guy just knows where to go. We did everything we wanted to do, give them credit.

"Their defence played great, there's nothing you can say. We got looks, it just didn't go in."

After Olesz and Girardi traded goals in the first period, the Rangers took advantage of a 5-on-3 advantage at the start of the second to take a 2-1 lead.

Gomez scored 28 seconds in when he banged in a rebound off Brendan Shanahan's one-timer from the point.

Florida tied it at 11:42 of the second on Cullimore's third of the season. Cullimore fired a slapshot from the point through traffic and beat Lundqvist low to the glove side.

"We're very disappointed considering we had a couple opportunities at the end," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "It would have been a big emotional lift to find a way against a very hot team. This is their sixth win in a row, and we knew going in they were going to be tough."

Notes: The teams split the four-game season series. ... Cullimore played in his 700th NHL game. ... Florida D Bryan Allen left the ice in the second period after behind checked into the boards from behind by Shanahan and didn't return. Shanahan was assessed a minor penalty. ... Because of Allen's injury, Montador moved from forward to defense in the third period. ... Florida won seven straight in the 1995-96 and 2005-06 seasons.


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