SUNRISE, Fla., Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Alexei Kovalev scored an empty-net goal Wednesday night in his return to the New York Rangers, who ended a seven-game winless streak with a 3-1 triumph over the Florida Panthers.
Re-acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday as part of an eight-player trade, Kovalev finished off the Rangers' first win in five tries under Coach Glen Sather and first victory of any kind since Jan. 23.
New York was 0-5-1-1 since that win over Nashville. In the interim, Sather fired Coach Bryan Trottier, replaced him behind the bench and sent four players to Pittsburgh for Kovalev, left wing Dan LaCouture and defensemen Mike Wilson and Janne Laukkanen.
Kovalev padded the Rangers' already league-leading payroll. But it was Sandy McCarthy who scored the go-ahead goal for New York.
With 76 seconds left in the second period, McCarthy -- whose $1.3 million salary ranks 18th on the team -- poked the puck away from defenseman Pavel Trnka and snapped a wrist shot from the edge of the left faceoff circle over the right shoulder of goaltender Roberto Luongo.
All-Star defenseman Tom Poti had the other goal for the Rangers, who extended their winning streak against the Panthers to five games.
Florida got a goal from All-Star Olli Jokinen but fell to 1-4-1 in its last six home games.