What it means: Veteran center Brad Richards snapped a 2-2 draw for his team-leading seventh goal and the Rangers' power-play delivered with a critical third-period marker in the team's 4-3 win over the Panthers.
My, what a difference a year makes. Richards, who was often the subject of scorn at Madison Square Garden during a dreadful 2013 season, snapped an eight-game goalless streak and also set up the game-winner for the unit. Though the Rangers let the Panthers claw back into the game -- letting a nine-game streak of giving up two goals or fewer slip past in the process -- the Blueshirts rattled off their third consecutive win against a foundering Florida squad that has dropped nine straight. New coach Peter Horachek, who replaced Kevin Dineen and Dineen was fired on Friday, is still searching for his first win behind the Panthers bench.
Miller time: Has the 20-year-old prospect finally found his way? Former first-round draft pick J.T. Miller played a strong game and tallied his first goal of the season during the first period. Miller finished a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing sequence by the Rangers midway through the first period and almost set up another with a nice centering pass on the rush with time winding down in the opening frame. Though Miller is regarded as one of the organization's top prospects, he has struggled to carve out a consistent spot in the Rangers' lineup. He was demoted to the minors after playing in the team's season-opener and was scratched less than two weeks ago after a rough game against Carolina.
Sunday, he provided jump and energy against a desperate Panthers squad eager to snap its eight-game skid. No doubt the Rangers hope his improved play continues, as they want the young forward to be a big part of the team's offense moving forward.
Surprise starter: Entering Sunday night's game with little to lose, new coach Peter Horachek threw 39-year-old Tim Thomas back between the pipes for back-to-back starts. Though Scott Clemmensen was expected to get the nod, Thomas made his eighth appearance of the season. The aging veteran, a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner with the Boston Bruins, earned the No. 1 gig even after taking last season off to spend time with family but couldn’t lead the Cats to a win Sunday night. Thomas was subject to the Garden’s derisive taunts after surrendering his fourth goal of the night to Norwegian winger Mats Zuccarello on a 5-on-3 Rangers power-play.