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Three first-period goals lead to easy victory

3/2/2003

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Rangers put it all together against
the Florida Panthers.

Mike Dunham made 32 saves and the Rangers scored three
first-period goal in a 5-2 victory Saturday night.

''Everybody is contributing -- that's a good feeling,'' said Mark
Messier, who scored his 17th goal of the season. ''A good offense
can cover up mistakes. You're not living and dying by the one-goal
game. Good offense gives your team confidence to go out and play.''

Messier, Brian Leetch, Radek Dvorak, Pavel Bure and Alexei
Kovalev scored for the Rangers, who have won four of their past six
to move to three points of eighth-place Boston in the race for
the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

The Panthers dropped their third consecutive game, and lost to the
Rangers for the sixth time in a row.

''They are a very experienced team and you can't be fishing for
loose pucks all night,'' Florida coach Mike Keenan said. ''They
just have some very powerful forwards.''

New York came out aggressive, but Florida struck first when Ivan
Novoseltsev popped a pass to Kristian Huselius, who cut in and
scored on Dunham 7:36 into the game.

Leetch tied it less than a minute later by shaking Novoseltsev
at the blue line and firing a shot past Roberto Luongo. Dvorak then
grabbed an errant pass and scored at 9:44 and Messier added a
power-play goal at 18:35 as the Rangers outshot the Panthers 16-10
in the period.

''It's enjoyable when you score five goals,'' Dunham said.
''Tonight we just scored a lot of goals, and that's always fun to
see.''

Florida's Olli Jokinen scored his 33rd goal of the season on a
power play in the second period, when both teams' aggressiveness
left them short-handed at times.

The two teams tussled several times in the first two minutes of
the second period, and Peter Worrell and Matthew Barnaby, who
exchanged shoves and got roughing penalties in the first, squared
off for a fight 2:10 into the period.

''I'm not going to intimidate anyone at 185 pounds,'' joked the
6-foot-1 Barnaby, who challenged the 6-6, 235-pound Worrell. ''You
stick up for your teammates. I know they'd be there for me.''

Bure broke away at 13:42 to score the final goal of the period.
Kovalev then added his 33rd goal of the season in the third before
the Rangers tightened their defense.

''It's not going to take one or two guys,'' Bobby Holik said.
''It's going to take all 20. I'm not going to get over excited
about this because we've got a long road ahead.''

Game notes
New York defenseman Tom Poti started after injuring his right leg
against Boston on Thursday night ... Worrell was called for four
penalties and got in several more skirmishes, spending much of his
time in the penalty box or on the bench. ... Kovalev scored his
sixth goal in 10 games since coming to New York from Pittsburgh in
a Feb. 10 trade.