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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Sergei Bobrovsky Keeps Focus, Shuts Out Rangers in Game 1

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Sergei Bobrovsky, left, is congratulated by Nick Cousins and the rest of the Florida Panthers after he shutout the New York Rangers in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. // Photo by Sean R. Cushing

NEW YORK — In a game where the tempo never ceased to change, Sergei Bobrovsky stayed composed and in control.

With 23 saves, Bobrovsky led the Florida Panthers to a 3-0 win over the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

The impressive part of Bobrovsky’s second playoff shutout in a year was not the number of saves — but that nothing about those saves was consistent.

In the first period, he faced five shots on one high-danger chance against.

Fast forward to the third period where Bobrovsky faced 11 shots on four high-danger chances with the Rangers settling in for barrages in short spurts.

Through it all, Bobrovsky stayed composed and played his game.

“He’s unbelievable,” Sasha Barkov said. “He is an elite goalie in this league and he works so hard every day and I’m not surprised that he can do whatever it takes every single night for us to help give us a chance to win a game.”

That constant on/off switch has not been new for Bobrovsky in this year’s playoffs.

Florida has allowed the fewest shots per game (24.0) among teams which advanced past the first round.

For the most part, the quality of those chances has been pretty low, but the occasional outburst is bound to happen with players like Nikita KucherovDavid Pastrnak and Artemi Panarin on the other side of the ice.

Bobrovsky’s overall numbers may not look the best — a .909 save percentage with a 2.17 goals-against average — but he has fared well behind uncertainty, and he shined through it on Wednesday night.

“The interesting thing about Sergei is that he is still learning,” coach Paul Maurice said of the 35-year-old veteran.

“In the Tampa series there were blocks of time without shots and then it’s Kucherov. It would spike. They would get two or three great chances. … I think you have to be a veteran goalie to do what he did tonight: Sit for a while, make huge saves, and then there’s the last 10 minutes of the game.

“That’s where he has to be Sergei.“

To open the Eastern Conference final, he looked like his two-time Vezina Trophy-winning self.

Matthew Tkachuk’s opening goal stood as the only one for a while — even more so after a third-period goal from Oliver Ekman-Larsson was overturned for goaltender interference on Ryan Lomberg.

“I thought it was right, because it’s the call I would want on Sergei,’’ Maurice said. “The best goalies in the world need a bit of protection. I don’t think there was any malice in what Ryan did. But you get that deep in the crease, and then, he’s trying to get out. … I get all that. I thought that was fair.’’

From that point on, Bobrovsky needed to be on.

With just under 7 1/2 minutes to go, the Rangers settled in for a big run at the Florida goalie, firing off shot after shot.

Bobrovsky came up with multiple saves in a row, sprawling out in desperation to keep the Rangers off the board before Gus Forsling laid out to block one and another shot rang off the crossbar.

He thrived through sequences like that to help preserve the one-goal lead.

“He has been unbelievable all playoffs and I can’t say enough about him,” Carter Verhaeghe said. “He works so hard and he is calm back there. He has so much confidence. When we need him, he comes up big.”

Verhaeghe came up with the insurance marker with 3:48 to go after Alexis Lafreniere deflected his cross-crease feed past his own netminder to make it 2-0.

Sam Bennett scored the empty-netter.

Bobrovsky (4-0) became the first goaltender in Panthers history with five career wins in the conference final round.

John Vanbiesbrouck is the only other netminder with four (4-3).

Of course, Vanbiesbrouck and Bobrovsky are the only goalies in Florida history to get this far. Bobrovsky has done it twice.

With 23 saves, Bobrovsky also improved to 8-1 in 10 career playoff appearances against the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winner.

“In the postseason, you don’t think about the shutouts, the goals or anything,” Bobrovsky said. “There are only wins and losses. And that’s it. You focus on one moment at a time and you don’t think about anything else.”

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 1-0
GAME 2
  • When: Friday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
  • 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: Panthers 3, Rangers 0; Game 2:Panthers at Rangers, Friday 8 (ESPN); Game 3:Rangers at Panthers, Sunday 3 (ABC); Game 4: Rangers at Panthers, Tuesday 8 (ESPN): Game 5*: Panthers at Rangers, Thursday May 30, 8 (ESPN); Game 6*: Rangers at Panthers, Saturday June 1, 8 (ABC); Game 7*: Panthers at Rangers, 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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