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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Panthers and Rangers Riding Thin Playoff Line

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Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky deflects a shot by New York’s Mika Zibanejad during the first period of Game 1 on Wednesday night at MSG. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

SUNRISE — With the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers gearing up for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final, the first three games have provided a great example of what playoff hockey has been over the years.

In the playoffs, hockey has historically been intense, hard-fought, and with the slimmest margins of victory.

The difference between winning and losing can be a bounce, a missed call (the neutral zone high stick before Barclay Goodrow’s OT winner in Game 2 was not reviewable for a missed play stoppage), an errant pass, a great save, a missed check, or several other factors.

This series between the Rangers and Panthers has been no different.

All three games could have gone either way.

They were essentially all one-goal games: two overtime heartbreakers from the Florida side and a 3-0 game, which was really a single goal when you discount the empty netter and the one the Rangers poked in their own net.

Thus far, the Panthers have done a great job of keeping the Rangers’ top snipers in check.

In three games, the trio of Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, and Mika Zibanejad, who had a combined 114 regular-season goals, produced only a single assist between them.

Now for the bad news.

The Panthers outplayed the Rangers by a large margin, registering a 108-43 advantage in shot attempts and a 37-23 mark in actual shots on goal.

Alexis Lafreniere’s two goals were, per Paul Maurice, not a breakdown of the system but a matter of “missed checks,” which allowed Lafreniere to break loose.

He said, in reference to the closeness of the games, “I don’t feel there is a glaring area where we are being offensively dominated in this series.”

The scores certainly reflect that.

Yet for all the good they have done, the Panthers trail this series 2-1.

The Panthers were beaten by former teammate Alex Wennberg in overtime on Sunday.

Wennberg had not scored a goal in 12 prior playoff games.

After being acquired by the Rangers at the trade deadline, he recorded only one goal in 19 regular-season games.

In Game 2, Goodrow was the hero. Goodrow had but four regular season goals for the Rangers. He already has six in the playoffs.

The paradox is that Goodrow has made a career of coming through in the playoffs, wreaking havoc as a fourth-line grinder, and coming up with strategic goals.

Tampa Bay acquired him at the deadline in 2019-20 for his grit, and he was an integral part of the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup in consecutive years.

The Rangers brought him in for the same reasons. They got their money’s worth.

Most give similar answers when teammates are asked about Goodrow’s “elevated” playoff game.

“You guys say elevated,” Vincent Trocheck said. “He’s scoring a little bit more now, but he’s been doing it all year. He’s been doing the little things.  You can rely on him every night. You know what you’re going to get. He’s one of our best PKers. He’s a guy you can rely on for faceoffs and D-zone. Anytime it’s late in the game you want him on the ice. He’s been doing it all year.”

As for the Panthers, they are ready to get back after it.

“I think we still like our game a lot,” Eetu Luostarinen said. “There’s a lot of good and I think small things we can fix.”

Given the small margin of victory and Florida’s offensive domination, Maurice said the team had to be “a half inch or an inch better.”

He reminded the media — and certainly shared this with his team — that “every single conference final has been 2-1 at one point” and said his team is “wired and ready to go.”

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

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1) V. NEW YORK RANGERS (MET1)
Rangers Lead Best-of-7 Series 2-1
GAME 4
  • When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • National TV: ESPN
  • 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; 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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