New York Rangers Pushed to the Brink After Heartbreaking Game 5 Loss to Florida Panthers

Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers came out guns blazing in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden, throwing everything they had at the Florida Panthers. They upped their offensive pressure, with their star players leading the charge, and Igor Shesterkin stood tall between the pipes, just like he has all series long.

Yet, despite their efforts, the Rangers couldn’t shake the fact that the Panthers were one step ahead. Florida squeaked a 3-2 win in Game 5 to take the series lead. They stayed calm under pressure and were nearly flawless defensively, making only one turnover compared to the Rangers’ twelve. 

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The Rangers were severely outplayed in games 3 and 4, yet split in Florida and still had home ice. Now, New York is on the ropes. The series is no longer tied, as Florida leads 3-2, and the Blueshirts face elimination for the first time all season on Saturday in Sunrise. 

It’s a brutal reality when you consider this has felt like a year of destiny. The presidents- trophy-winning Rangers’ have been the kings of turning the tide with an NHL record-breaking 34 combined comeback wins in the regular season and playoffs. However, the reigning Eastern Conference champions, the Panthers, matched their intensity and resolve, going punch for punch for 60 minutes and eventually emerging victorious. 

Now, the Rangers are heading down to Florida on Saturday, knowing they have their work cut out for them if they want to keep their playoff dreams alive. Yet, despite the dire situation, there were many positives to take away from this hard-fought contest.

For one, Chris Kreider finally arrived at the Eastern Conference Final. 

During a shorthanded opportunity, Chris Kreider intercepted a pass from Matthew Tkachuk and turned it into a scoring chance. He passed to Mika Zibanejad, who then set up Kreider for a breakaway goal, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead early in the second period. It was a redemption moment for Kreider, especially after the Rangers had struggled on the penalty kill in Game 4. It was his first point since his natural hat trick in Game 6 against the Carolina Hurricanes

But it wasn’t just Kreider. The Rangers’ stars like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad also made their presence felt, each registering four shots on goal. Yet it wasn’t enough, and they couldn’t convert enough opportunities to affect the outcome by night’s end.

The Panthers tied it when Gustav Forsling expertly navigated past the defensive pair of Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren, unleashing a backhanded shot that found its way past Igor Shesterkin’s left pad. Sam Bennett deserves credit for a slick no-look pass that set up Forsling perfectly, knotting the score at 1-1, where it would stay after two periods. 

Yes, Florida won the high-danger chances battle at even strength 18-7 and 21-14 overall. But it was a line matchup that made the difference. The Rangers third line of Jack Roslovic, Alex Wennberg, and Kaapo Kako were outshot 7-1 in slot areas. The Panthers line of Matthew Tkachuk, Bennett, and Evan Rodrigues outshot the Rangers 8-1 in high-danger chances when on the ice. Other than that, things were even. However, the beauty of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is one team had to win, and the other needs to lose.

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Akin to how this series has gone, the Panthers again strengthened in the game’s final period. They came out with the required urgency, applying relentless pressure until they finally broke through with Anton Lundell’s go-ahead goal. Lundell capitalized on a three-on-two rush with a precisely placed wrist shot that found its way past Shesterkin, with Vladimir Tarasenko providing a crucial screen in front of the net on the middle lane drive. Shesterkin was brilliant again despite the defeat with 34 saves, including 18 saves on high-danger chances, and five in the first few minutes of the third period. He finished with a stellar 2.04 goals saved above expected. 

The goal put Florida ahead for good at 2-1. It came right after the Blueshirts pushed hard on their third power play of the evening. Despite having quality looks, they failed to convert and dropped to 1 for 14 in this series. However, the difference in this one was they were outscored 2-0 at even strength.


Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was brilliant, and made 25 saves, only letting two goals past him despite facing 14 high danger chances, stopping all seven he faced at five on five.

Bennett secured the Rat Pack’s victory with an empty-netter with 1:52 left, as Zibanejad let up his check along the wall trying to sell a penalty and paid the price. Once again, the $8.5 million center was in the middle of a game-sealing turnover just like overtime of Game 4.

Alexis Lafrenière pulled one back for the Rangers with 46 seconds left, his eighth goal of the playoffs, with Kreider and Zibanejad picking up their second points of the game. However, it was too late for the Rangers, whose frantic charge in the final minute for the equalizer came up empty. 

Despite the spirited effort, these Rangers couldn’t break the curse. They’re now 0-7 in their last Eastern Conference Finals game 5’s since 1994. This loss felt like the one to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2022. New York scored the first goal before Tampa tied it. It was a tight game, and 1-1 until an Ondrej Palat deflection with 1:50 left was the difference. A Brandon Hagel empty netter sealed a 3-1 Lightning win. The Bolts would seal the series on a Saturday in Game 6.

Take away the Lafreniere goal from Thursday, and it was the same script, this time against the other team from the Sunshine State 

Now, their focus ironically shifts again to survival on Saturday in South Beach. They’ll need to execute their game plan flawlessly to extend the series and bring it back to Broadway for a Game 7 showdown on Monday. It’s all or nothing now. 

In this weeks episode Will Wright from Blueseatblogs comes on to discuss the Trouba situation, Prospects, Mika and more.How to support us and our sponsors:Columbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITRThanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at www.insidetherink.com for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Guest Will Wright
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  3. Guest Colin Stephenson
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