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Back on the winning track after consecutive losses, the New York Rangers look to take advantage of another struggling Sunshine State team Friday when they open a home-and-home series with the Florida Panthers at BankAtlantic Center.
The Rangers (16-7-2) won their second in a row Wednesday, 3-2 in a shootout at Tampa Bay. Markus Naslund scored twice and added a goal in the shootout as the Rangers continued to rebound from their worst two-game stretch of the season.
New York, outscored 10-4 in back-to-back losses to Vancouver and Ottawa last week, defeated the Lightning for the fourth time this season and sent them to their ninth loss in 11 games. The Rangers have won five of seven.
"We talked about trying to get some momentum going here and put a string of wins together," Naslund said.
Naslund, in his first season with the Rangers, has three goals in his last two games, giving him nine on the season.
"We know that this building is a tough building to play in, and they're a desperate team," Naslund said. "We had to work hard to get the win, but it was nice to get it."
Henrik Lundqvist finished with 29 saves and stopped 14 of 15 shots in the second period, improving to 14-5-2 with a 2.08 goals-against average on the season. He's been successful in his career against the Panthers, going 6-2-0 with three shutouts and a 1.85 GAA in eight starts.
The Rangers won the 2007-08 season series with the Panthers 2-1-1, outscoring Florida 14-7.
Florida (8-11-2) lost for the fourth time in six games Wednesday, 3-2 in overtime to New Jersey. Johnny Oduya's goal with 55.5 seconds left in the extra period sent the Panthers to defeat, right after David Booth's goal with 7.2 seconds left in regulation tied the game.
Booth's goal followed teammate Jay Bouwmeester's that came 2:09 earlier. The Panthers also had a 2-minute power play early in overtime.
"We were pretty pumped to tie it and we get a power play, and go from thinking that you can end it right there to walking off the ice the other way," Florida center Stephen Weiss said.
The Panthers, outshot 20-5 through the first 28 minutes, will focus on their late rally as they try to get back in the win column Friday.
"It's definitely a good sign," Booth, who leads the team with 11 goals and has scored three of the Panthers' last six goals, told the team's official Web site. "We have to have better starts."
Coach Peter DeBoer helped spark the comeback by lifting veteran Tomas Vokoun after the first period with the Panthers down 2-0. Craig Anderson came on and stopped 24 shots, and it's uncertain who will be in net Friday.
Vokoun is 5-5-0 with one tie and a 2.79 GAA in 11 games versus the Rangers, winning two of his last three starts against them. Anderson has never faced New York.
The teams conclude their home-and-home set Sunday at Madison Square Garden.