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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

No Worries: Florida Panthers in Good Spirits After Split with Rangers

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Vincent Trocheck gets to know Matthew Tkachuk a little better as a referee interrupts after Trocheck gave his Rangers a 1-0 lead in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final on Friday night. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

NEW YORK — When Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice stepped up to the podium after a tough 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final, he was in an unusually chipper mood.

Maurice even had jokes.

The Panthers certainly played well against this year’s version of the NHL Presidents’ Trophy winners for the second straight game and ended up leaving Madison Square Garden with the series tied at 1.

Maurice didn’t even need to see the overtime winner to know that.

“You know what? I haven’t seen it yet,” Maurice said when asked about Barclay Goodrow’s overtime winner.

“I don’t know if you’ve been to the maze down here, but our video guy is three zip codes away from our locker room because somebody needed some popcorn, so I haven’t seen our video guy. Not sure he still works for us.

“But I truly have not seen the goal because we have to send the telegram.”

When an unnamed 22-year-old reporter asked what a telegram was, he began to explain before locking eyes with a veteran scribe and saying “let’s keep it over here.”

That was the overall vibe around the loss.

The Panthers were not upset with how they played.

“It wasn’t a night for profanity,” Maurice quipped.

His team bounced back after Vincent Trocheck opened the scoring 4:12 in, weathering a strong Rangers start until catching a break on the power play late in the first period.

Carter Verhaeghe wired a shot from the top of the slot with 51 seconds to go in the first to tie the score.

And that’s where the offense ended for the next 55 minutes.

Those next 55 minutes consisted of tough, physical hockey, good scoring chances on both sides and elite goaltending.

“Oh, absolutely,” Maurice said when asked if he was able to appreciate the game from the bench.

“When I’m not berserk, I like the game of hockey. It was up and down the ice, and even in the first 10 minutes, you know that it’s going to look like that very early, so it’s not that they’re on you, it’s are we handling it right? Like you didn’t see anybody try to break the game open in the first 10 minutes, there wasn’t any stretch bullshit, we didn’t try ‘oh my God we’re under siege, let’s do something we haven’t done for the last two years.’

“Sometimes you have to block punches. You can’t be throwing and swinging all the time, so I thought we played pretty good with that.”

There were bits and pieces of that game the Panthers can really take away and build on for Game 3 on Sunday back home in Sunrise.

The penalty kill was perfect, going 4-for-4 while frustrating the Rangers with consistent pressure in the passing lanes, completely shutting down one of the league’s best power play units.

“Obviously it’s predicated on pressure,” Aaron Ekblad said. “At the end of the day, that’s one of the top power plays in the league and we’re just trying to limit their chances. Bob is making huge saves, so that’s kind of the key.”

They also fought back against a Rangers team that came out with a ton of physicality, with Ryan Lomberg and Sasha Barkov creating multiple quality scoring chances with a heave of tenacity on the forecheck.

It was just hard to get anything past Igor Shesterkin.

He finished the night with 26 saves on 27 shots, including a 100 percent high-danger save percentage on six high-quality shots, per Natural Stat Trick.

At the end of the day, the Rangers were the team that got the break.

“I’m fine with tonight,” Maurice said. “You shouldn’t come in and beat the Presidents’ Trophy team twice in their own building. We got it to overtime, we had a good look a bunch of times and we couldn’t get it to go. Two really good goaltenders and it’s exciting. Lots of hits, lots of action.”

The mood in the locker room was the same.

Shake this one off, take the even 1-1 split at MSG and take advantage of the newly-established home-ice advantage when the series shifts to South Florida this holiday weekend.

“Obviously it’s tough to lose in overtime, but at the end of the day, we’re 1-1 in their building,” Ekblad said.

“They came out really explosive tonight and that’s what we expected. We lost a tight game, we have to move on and we have a quick turnaround for a 3 o’clock game at home.”

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

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1) V. NEW YORK RANGERS (MET1)

Best-of-7 Series Tied 1-1

GAME 3
  • When: Sunday, 3 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • National TV: ABC
  • Streaming: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Series Schedule — Game 1: Florida 3, @New York 0; Game 2: @New York 2, Florida 1 OT; Game 3: New York at Florida, Sunday 3 (ABC); Game 4: New York at Florida, Tuesday 8 (ESPN): Game 5: Florida at New York, Thursday 8 (ESPN); Game 6*: New York at Florida, Saturday June 1, 8 (ABC); Game 7*: Florida at New York, Monday June 3, 8 (ESPN). (*) — If Necessary.
  • How They Got Here: Florida d. Tampa Bay 4-1, Boston 4-2; Rangers d. Washington 4-0, Carolina 4-2.
  • Last Season vs. Rangers — Regular Season: Rangers won 3-0
  • This Season (Panthers Won 2-1) — At Florida: Panthers 4 Rangers 3 (Dec. 29). At MSG: Panthers 4, Rangers 2 (March 4); Rangers 4, Panthers 3 OT (March 23).
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Rangers lead 61-34-8, 6 ties
  • Postseason History: Rangers Lead 1-0 (1997 1st)

 

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