Florida Panthers vs. New York Rangers Series Recap | 06/03/2024

Sam Bennett scores the first goal of Game 6. DAVID SANTIAGO [email protected]

The fight for the title of best in the east was a tight one, with five games being decided by one goal. Florida had the only multi-goal win in Game 1 but even that is a bit misleading as the majority of the game was spent with a 1-0 lead for the Cats. However, with that said, the Panthers simply outplayed and outworked the Rangers in this series, dominating the play for the majority of the games and weathering the pressure that the Rangers created. Even in the games that Florida lost, they were a dominant force on the ice and suffered from either lucky bounces for New York or a couple of small mistakes on the defensive end that got cleared up by Game 4. The Panthers won the special teams battle as well, icing a red-hot Ranger powerplay that was sitting at 31.4% down to 24% and allowed just one powerplay goal in six games. Goaltending kept this series closer than it arguably should have been, with Shesterkin playing an outstanding series; he kept his team in every single game and gave them a chance to win. In the nine meetings these two teams had this season, not once did the Rangers win in regulation, while Florida won five games in 60 minutes. The Cats pulled out a gritty series win and are headed back to the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight year.

Game 1:

Game 1 started with a bit of controversy as, before the puck drop, the ice in Madison Square Garden wasn’t fully set in the Panthers’ starting end. The start of the game was delayed to try and allow that ice to set properly, with that said though, bad ice at MSG would be an ongoing trend for the three games played in New York. This was another series with great goaltending at each end, with Bobrovsky and Shesterkin leading their teams in net. The Panthers kept their starting lines from Game 6 against Boston, and Barkov’s line with the Forsling-Ekblad d-pair got things started. From the start of Game 1, Florida was pressuring and getting shots toward the net. Bobrovsky made a big stop on a breakaway attempt in the first five minutes before the Cats came back with even more offensive pressure. The majority of the first period was either back and forth or Florida spending time in the offensive zone. The Panthers finally got rewarded with a goal in the final three and a half minutes when Tkachuk broke the ice off a rush chance with Verhaeghe and Forsling, and his shot beat Shesterkin on the glove side. The Rangers had pressure in the first five minutes of the second period but the Cats’ defense was up to the task to keep things scoreless for the Rangers – Tarasenko made a fantastic sliding block and saved a potential goal. Powerplays were ineffective for both sides as neither team converted on the man advantage. The middle period was either back and forth on the ice or the teams trading o-zone pressure while both goalies were making big saves. It looked like OEL had extended the lead to 2-0, but the goal got called back for goalie interference from Lomberg, who had skated into the blue paint by himself and then got shoved into Shesterkin. The Panthers did make it 2-0 when a poor clearing attempt from Shesterkin went right to Verhaeghe, and then his cross-ice pass ended up getting tipped into the net by Rangers’ player Lafrenière with just under four minutes to play. That goal marks Verhaeghe’s seventh goal of this playoffs and the 22nd of his career with the Panthers, marking a new franchise record. Sam Bennett made the game unreachable with 1:21 to play on an empty net goal, and the Panthers ran out the clock for a 3-0 shutout win to open up the Conference Finals.

Game 2:

The Rangers came out in Game 2 with a lot of fire to respond to the shutout loss. That manifested in an early goal for Trocheck, who got a quick pass across the crease and then buried the puck in the net for the 0-1 lead. Following a goal, the first scrum of the series was set off by Verhaeghe and Lafrenière. Verhaeghe, Tkachuk, and Lafrenière all got sent to the box for roughing, and the Rangers got the first powerplay of the night. Bobrovsky made a huge save, and the Panthers got zone clears from Kulikov, Forsling, and Reinhart to kill off the penalty. New York continued to push against Florida’s defense, but they didn’t get another goal out of it despite getting a second powerplay. Verhaeghe tied the game at 1 when the Panthers got their first powerplay of the night – Bennett and Lundell got the assists. The following two periods were a battle of will and defense, with both teams getting big defensive plays during special teams and blocking shots, with the goalies making great save after great save. Regulation wasn’t enough, so this one headed into overtime. OT started with pressure from New York, but Bobrovsky was there to make the saves. Things went back and forth just like regulation until Goodrow got connected to a stretch pass that got in behind Florida’s defense, and he scored the OT winner to split the series.

Game 3:

The Panthers did their job in MSG and got at least one win heading into Game 3. Tkachuk’s line started for the Cats with Forsling-Ekblad on the defense. The Panthers got an early powerplay, and Mr. Powerplay himself, Sam Reinhart, would shoot to score, getting assists from Barkov and Tkachuk to give Florida the 1-0 lead. Reinhart’s shot went over Shesterkin’s blocker and into the back of the net. Just like the OT winner from Game 2, a stretch pass that got in behind the Florida defense got to Lafrenière, who put it in the net over the glove and right under the crossbar to tie the game 1-1. Just thirty seconds later, Goodrow made it 1-2 for the Rangers off a shot that got tipped in just over Bob’s pad and got a lucky bounce off a post to go in. A roughing call on Rempe gave the Panthers another powerplay, and once again, Reinhart buried a shot into the net, this time through the 5-hole of Shesterkin, to tie it up 2-2, and the first period ended with things tied. A poor second period from the Cats gave the Rangers a 2-4 lead, with goals coming from Lafrenière and Goodrow off an even-strength goal and a short-handed goal, respectively. If there’s one thing that’s been consistent for Florida, it’s that they’re a great third-period team. Game 3 held that true as the Cats got goals from both Barkov and Forsling to tie the game and send things into overtime once again. HC Paul Maurice elected to adjust the forward lines for the final period, moving Verhaeghe to Barkov’s line, Rodrigues to Tkachuk’s line, and Tarasenko down to Lundell’s line. The adjustment gave the offense new life, which allowed them to tie up the game. OT didn’t take quite as long this time, with Wennberg tipping in a shot from Lindgren for the 4-5 win, and the Rangers took a 1-2 series lead.

Game 4:

Back-to-back overtime losses were a hard pill to swallow for the Cats as they looked to rebound in Game 4. HC Paul Maurice elected to keep his top three lines from the third period and adjusted the fourth line, pulling in Steven Lorentz and Kyle Okposo to play winger with Stenlund to center the line. The teams traded shots early, with the Rangers blocking shots and Bobrovsky making the saves. The teams also each got a power play in the first ten minutes of the game, with Florida’s getting killed off and Trocheck breaking the Rangers’ only powerplay goal of the series. He was left all alone by the Florida defense and his shot went over Bob’s shoulder to hit the underside of the crossbar and bounce in. Florida went into the second period with a one-goal deficit. The second period started, and it was all Panthers’ pressure, with the team getting shots from Forsling, Bennett, Verhaeghe, Rodrigues, and Montour. The Cats’ forecheck was once again hemming the Rangers into their own zone and making exits difficult. With just over 13 minutes left in the period, the Panthers got their second power play of the night, but that didn’t convert. Bennett found the net just after it ended to tie the game. His chance came off a rebound that Shesterkin thought he had squeezed between his legs and the net, but Bennett poked it free and across the goal line. Florida’s second power play came off a delay of game penalty and this game saw the Cats adjust their power play setup, moving Reinhart around instead of letting him only sit in the slot shot. The adjustment paid off as it allowed Verhaeghe to score off a bit of a broken play that had the puck jump up in the air, and he then batted out of the air and into the net for the 2-1 lead. Florida held a 2-1 lead going into the final period play, but things didn’t stay that way for long. Lafrenière tipped in a shot from Fox, who had used a spin move to maneuver around the defense and give himself more time and space to make a play. Florida pressed hard to get the one-goal advantage back however, for a third straight game, things went into overtime. An early hooking penalty called on Wheeler gave the Cats a power play, and that’s all they needed to close it out. In what’s been a rinse-and-repeat play fans have seen frequently over the last few months, Reinhart scored off a shot from the slot; the only change being Barkov down at the goal line to make the pass and Montour making the initial pass to Barkov. Things went back to MSG still tied this time at 2-2, but after Game 3 the Panthers wouldn’t trail in the series again.

Game 5:

HC Paul Maurice kept the lines from Game 4 for Game 5, and once again at MSG, the ice was noticeably bad in the building despite the temperature being turned down to help with it. Florida got the first pressure of the game with Shesterkin making saves or the Rangers blocking shots. Tarasenko made his own great defensive play to deny Panarin a scoring chance, and then Okposo got a chance from the high slot that got saved. Bobrovsky made back-to-back saves but then Luostarinen got called for slashing. The Cats’ PK completely shut down New York’s power play with aggressiveness on the puck handler and boxing the players to the outside. The Panthers dominated the O-zone time for the first period, but with both goalies locked in, nothing was going into either net. Florida had more than its fair share of chances that could’ve gone in and hit a couple of posts in the process. Bobrovsky made a great save on a late Ranger breakaway attempt and the game was scoreless going into the second period. Florida got an early power play that backfired as Kreider scored his fist goal of the series on a short-handed goal to break the ice. Two bad penalties from Florida put them in a tough spot but they were able to kill them both off. Bennett’s playoff tear continued with his deceptive no-look pass to Forsling, who got in behind the defense and used a back-handed shot to get the Panthers on the board 1-1. Tied is where things stayed going into the final period of play and through the first half of the third period. Anton Lundell broke the tie with a shot that found the small space between Shesterkin’s body and arm. With Luostarinen and Tarasenko driving to the net that opened up Lundell to take the shot and get the 2-1 lead. The Rangers tried to make an offensive push, but the Florida defense was there to shut the door. Bennett scored his second empty netter with 1:53 left to play. New York got one back with Lafrenière scoring with 50 seconds left on the clock but it was too little too late and the Cats take a 3-2 lead as things headed back to Sunrise.

Game 6:

The Rangers hadn’t been on the season-ending side of an elimination game yet this postseason, while Florida has had plenty of experience in them over the last two seasons, whether they’re on the cusp of being eliminated or trying to close out a series. Like every game in this series New York looked good in the opening minutes of the first period, skating fast and getting shot chances. But Florida answered back just as strong getting o-zone time and their own opportunities. The Panthers were all over the ice, blocking shots in the first period when they weren’t generating their own shot chances. The penalty kill stayed aggressive and effective, killing off the Ranger power play, and the one power play for each side would be the only penalties called for the game. Bennett and Rodrigues had a give-and-go that resulted in Bennett sending a shot to the top corner of the net over Shesterkin’s glove and scoring for the 1-0 lead in the period’s final seconds. A hard-fought second period with great defense and goaltending had things still the same after 40 minutes of play, 1-0 Florida lead going into the final period of play. Bobrovsky had a great second period and made plenty of big saves to keep the Rangers off the board. Florida’s third line was having one of their best games of the playoffs and were finally rewarded with a goal from Tarasenko who went backdoor on Shesterkin for the 2-0 lead. Lundell, who’s having a breakout playoff, made a beautiful cross-ice pass to Tarasenko. As with most of the other games, Florida has outplayed their opponent in the third period and while New York got one back with just over a minute and a half to go, just like Game 5 it was too little too late. The Cats hang on to win 2-1 and take their second straight Eastern Conference Championship, and advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

My Takeaways:

I can’t overstate how stifling the Panther forechecking and Barkov’s line with Forsling’s defensive pair has been against not just the Rangers but every team they’ve played in the playoffs. They held Kucherov goalless; Pastrnak had one goal, Panarin had one goal and didn’t score until Game 6, Zibanejab was goalless, and Kreider had one goal. The Cats have been tested by an absolute gauntlet of excellent goaltending facing Vasilevskiy, Swayman, and now Shesterkin. While they didn’t put up the insane goal performances against Shesterkin like they did against Swayman, Florida was calm under pressure and showed that their experience from last season was invaluable. The highs were never too high and the lows were never too low, if they were down there was no worry from anyone on the ice. The versatility of the Florida roster is also incredibly impressive. To be able to adjust lines mid-series and not miss a beat but actually get even better shows just how well the full team chemistry is. Okposo, who I wasn’t the most impressed by during the regular season, has played great during the playoffs when he’s been called upon for the fourth line. That fourth line may cycle through players, but all of them share one big thing in common: they are determined to outwork anyone on the ice, and when the top of the lineup has struggled, they’ve been the ones to have good shifts in the o-zone to get things going for everyone else. Different players stepped up and made a big play or got a big goal at different points during this series. While Barkov didn’t have his best series of the playoffs, he’s still invaluable as the top-line center and his defensive play broke up more than his fair share of Ranger chances. Forsling’s breakout playoffs continued whether it was his defensive plays or him deciding to join in on the offense, at times it felt like he was everywhere on the ice. Ekblad has been a great compliment on the top d-pairing and coming out of Game 6 he toped the Florida impact player stats. Ekblad has drawn a lot of criticism from Florida fans but at this point, it’s not warranted, every player has a bad game here and there. Yes, it sucks when it’s the playoffs and someone has a bad game, but Ekblad has responded extremely well when he’s had a poor performance in the game. Edmonton finished off the Dallas Stars on Sunday night, locking the Stanley Cup Final as a showdown between the southernmost team and the northernmost team. Game 1 of the Cup Finals is set for Saturday, June 8th, at 8 pm EST/7 pm CT in Sunrise.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

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