NEW YORK — Igor Shesterkin made 42 saves and the New York Rangers held off the Florida Panthers to hand them their first regulation loss of the season, 4-3 at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
The Panthers (10-1-1) had their season-opening point streak ended at 11, one short of the team record of 12 set in 1996-97 (8-0-4).
“We got what we deserved tonight for sure,” Panthers coach Andrew Brunette said. “The mistakes that we made are very correctable but those are mistakes that really hurt you when you put yourself in those positions. We got exactly what we deserve.”
Shesterkin’s 42 saves were a season high. He made 11 saves in the first period, 17 in the second and 14 in the third, when the Panthers scored three goals, including two in the final 1:26.
But this time the lead was large enough, unlike when the Rangers (7-3-3) gave away a 4-1 lead on the road against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday before losing 6-5 in overtime.
“Fortunately for ‘Shesty,'” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “No fun watching that. You win a game against an undefeated team, a great team, and you don’t feel good about that one. I’ll take the two points later, but it’s not the way you’ve got to play hockey.”
Chris Kreider scored a power-play goal and Adam Fox scored shorthanded in the first period. K’Andre Miller and Ryan Strome scored 30 seconds apart during a 4-on-4 sequence in the second. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad each had two assists.
Florida hadn’t trailed by more than one goal in 10 straight games.
“We gave up a power-play goal, a shorthanded and two 4-on-4, which doesn’t happen very often to give up two,” Brunette said. “I think a little bit of our management ability in certain areas we talk about a lot, the blues and just inside the blue, we just weren’t completely sharp at different times in the game when we needed to be.”
Kreider scored his team-leading ninth goal and NHL-best sixth on the power play at 7:52 of the first period, one minute after Shesterkin stopped Frank Vatrano on a breakaway.
“You can see it in the game how much energy we get from him,” Miller said of Shesterkin.
Fox made it 2-0 with his shorthanded goal at 19:54 of the first period.
Sam Reinhart joined teammates Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad in pursuit of Barclay Goodrow, the puck carrier. That left the middle lane for Fox, who took the pass from Goodrow and skated through the open space to the net before beating goalie Spencer Knight (14 saves).
“I mean, there’s less than 10 seconds left and in my mind I think I got too puck-focused,” Reinhart said. “There’s no need for me to go in there. I’m not going to turn the puck around and get an opportunity on the other end, so I think we just cut our losses at that point.”
Panarin had a goal disallowed because of goalie interference at 9:10 of the second.
The Panthers challenged because Strome was in the crease, blocking Knight’s ability to play his position by getting across to stop Panarin’s one-timer from the right circle.
“He went in unobstructed, so I thought it was the right time to challenge and I felt pretty confident,” Brunette said.
The Rangers made it 3-0 at 12:48, when Miller scored on an end-to-end rush.
Gallant joked that he’d turn the second-year defenseman into a left wing after seeing the rush.
“It was an incredible goal,” Gallant said. “He’s got a lot of talent. You see his raw skill and his talent. He can skate and he’s got that big reach. It was really nice to see, a good confidence-builder for him.”
Strome scored on a one-timer off a pass from Panarin at 13:18 to give New York a 4-0 lead.
The Panthers rallied in the third on goals by Eetu Luostarinen at 20 seconds to make it 4-1, Reinhart at 18:34 to make it 4-2 and Patric Hornqvist with Knight pulled for an extra skater at 19:20 to make it 4-3.
They kept the pressure on in the final 40 seconds but couldn’t get the tying goal.
“We battled for two periods and that third period, just, it’s not acceptable for us,” Gallant said. “We’ve got to fight through it. We’ve got to grow up. We’ve got to be men and fight through it late in the hockey game.”
NOTES: Panthers center Aleksander Barkov had an assist and six shots on goal in 20:13 of ice time in his return after missing a 5-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday because of a lower-body injury. … Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t dress for the second straight game because of an upper-body injury. He’s day to day and will be reassessed to determine his availability against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Tuesday. … Panthers forward Mason Marchment sustained an upper-body injury when he went hard into the boards with Rangers defenseman Nils Lundkvist at 7:59 of the third period. Marchment went to the Panthers’ locker room appearing to favor his left arm or shoulder. Brunette said he’ll be re-evaluated Tuesday. … Rangers center Filip Chytil missed his first game of the season with an upper-body injury. He’s day to day.