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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Florida Panthers Need One More Special Teams Gem vs. Rangers

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Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been a big reason why his team has killed off all but one New York power play this series. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

On Thursday night, the Panthers and Rangers played yet another one-goal game. 

It has been the story of this Eastern Conference final — and is likely to continue.

That’s four straight tight ones for Florida and the Rangers; Five if you count the Game 1 empty-netter and the Rangers scoring on themselves.

The scores could not be any closer, although Florida continues to outplay the Rangers statistically. 

In Game 5, Florida again outshot the Rangers, this time by a 37-27 margin. 

For the series, the Panthers hold a 168-127 lead.

The only real negative aspect of Thursday’s game at Madison Square Garden was the misplay that allowed Chris Kreider to break his scoring streak and nail a shorty.

The Florida power play took a statistical hit because of this, but the penalty kill still excelled, this time negating all three Rangers’ power plays. 

For the series, the Rangers’ power play is a paltry 1-14 (7.1 percent).

They had a 26.4 percent success rate in the regular season, third in the NHL.

Florida has five power-play goals in 18 attempts in this round.

If there is a single most significant “key to the game,” the Panthers’ successful penalty kill continues to frustrate the Rangers and their offensive stars.

Vincent Trocheck, having a career year, scored the lone Rangers power-play goal.

Kreider’s shorthanded goal off Matthew Tkachuk’s misplay was his first goal of the series. 

Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad have yet to score.

Gus Forsling has been one of the team’s top penalty killers all season, so it is no surprise that he has excelled in the spotlight of the playoffs.

His offensive turn with a couple of key goals, such as Wednesday’s second-period marker, which pulled the Panthers even at the time, has not deflected attention from his defensive ability but put a spotlight on it.

In the 5-on-5 game, Forsling was the NHL leader in plus/minus this year.

In the playoffs, he is second only to Edmonton’s Evan Bouchard.

Both sides have often used the term “wear them down” in the series.

In that regard, the Panthers have the edge.

They scored a playoff-leading 23 third-period goals and enjoyed a 13-goal third-period differential over the three rounds. 

“It’s conditioning and the kind of shape we’re in,” said Dmitry Kulikov, who has excelled on the penalty kill all season.

“We build as the game goes on. We wear teams down with our pressure and with our style of play. I think that comes into play in the second and third period. It’s the shape that we’re in and the style of play that we play.”

Although Florida has throttled the Rangers’ power play in this round, overall, in the playoffs, the boys from Broadway are at a respectable 24.5 percent, with the Panthers very close at 23.7 percent.

The term “desperation” will be used often tonight on both sides. 

For Florida, they can’t take their foot off the gas. This Rangers team is a lot better than the statistics indicate.

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1) V. NEW YORK RANGERS (MET1)
Panthers Lead Best-of-7 Series 3-2
GAME 6

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