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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Panthers, Rangers Living ‘On the Edge’ in Razor-Thin Series

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Carter Verhaeghe keeps his eye on the puck before batting it past Igor Shesterkin to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead in Game 4 on Tuesday night in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Florida Panthers and New York Rangers have barely given each other an inch in the Eastern Conference final.

As the series heads into Game 5 tonight tied at 2, the past three games went to overtime in a four-game set which Florida has a plus-2 goal advantage.

“We would love not to live on the edge, but I don’t think that’s going to happen this series,” coach Paul Maurice said. “Either team could have won the series by now four straight. That’s how tight it is.”

On the surface, the numbers are tilted in favor of the Panthers.

They own 56.9 percent of the total shots, 59.3 percent of the scoring chances and 60.2 percent of the high-danger chances per Natural Stat Trick.

“You have to embrace it,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “It’s the conference finals, you knew it was most likely going to end up being even after four games.

“Each game is very tight. I would say that we’ve probably controlled three out of the four and then in Game 2 they played really well. But I think we like the way our game is trending right now. It’s been very even, social teams have been big for us, goaltending both ways has been very good. It’s very even series so far.”

A few things remain the great equalizer.

First, Igor Shesterkin has an astounding 91.67 total high-danger save percentage and a 93.3 high-danger save percentage at 5-on-5.

He bests Sergei Bobrovsky in both categories.

The Rangers have also done a much better job of cleaning up the front of the net in front of Shesterkin and getting bodies in shooting lanes.

New York has 108 blocked shots to Florida’s 64 and has forced the Panthers to take 85 off-target shots to its 59.

Florida has gotten 59.2 percent of the shot attempts in the series, but the Rangers have weathered the storm by giving their netminder the best chance to make the save.

“He’s a great goalie,” Sam Bennett said of Shesterkin. “There’s no doubt about it.

“I think we can still do an even better job of getting more traffic to the net and making it tougher on him. That’s how you’re going to score, so we can definitely still improve on that.”

The Panthers look to build on that heading into a critical Game 5.

They don’t need to dominate the way they have in certain stretches of the series, and they likely won’t be dominating all the time.

Florida just needs to play its game.

”You have to be kind of playing the way you have prepared your team to play,” Maurice said.

“If you’ve done your job, we should look a certain way. The Conference finals against the Presidents’ Trophy team, so you’re not owning that game or all of it or chunks of it. If we’re playing the game the way we feel we should look then I enjoy the hell out of it.

“Because in your own brain then, you’re not looking for a solution to a problem. So if you’re not looking the way you look, you aren’t enjoying it because you’ve got problems that you haven’t solved and that’s your job.”

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 at 2
GAME 5

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