NHL: Panthers aim to rebound in Game 3 vs. Rangers

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The New York Rangers opened the Eastern Conference final with one of their worst showings of the postseason. The Florida Panthers hardly expected Game 2 to unfold the same way.

While the Panthers are disappointed with Friday’s loss in New York, they certainly are content with the split — especially with the next two games on home ice.

After the Rangers evened the series on Barclay Goodrow’s game-winning overtime goal, the tightly contested series shifts to Sunrise, Fla., for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon.

Florida opened the series with Wednesday’s 3-0 victory before New York drew even in the best-of-seven series after Goodrow scored 14:01 into overtime on Friday in a 2-1 thriller.

“I think that is what happens when you get the two best teams in the conference,” Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe said. “It’s going to be a battle. They are playing hard defense, we’re playing hard defense. It’s a struggle to get chances.”

Despite the loss, Florida coach Paul Maurice said he had little issue with how his team played.

“I’m fine with tonight,” Maurice said. “You shouldn’t come in and beat the Presidents’ Trophy team twice in their own building. We got it to overtime, we had a good look a bunch of times and we couldn’t get it to go. Two really good goaltenders and it’s exciting. Lots of hits, lots of action.”

The Panthers countered Vincent Trocheck’s goal early in the first period by getting the tying tally from Verhaeghe on a power play nearly 14 minutes later. In addition to Sergei Bobrovsky stopping 52 shots in the first two games, Florida has kept New York scoreless on six power plays.

The Rangers survived on Friday thanks to Goodrow, who started the winning sequence by emerging victorious on a defensive zone faceoff. He then batted the puck out of the air near the neutral zone and finished off a cross-ice pass from Trocheck by ripping a shot from the right faceoff circle.

“I thought it was a pretty competitive game both ways,” New York coach Peter Laviolette said. “I did like our game better and we end up getting a big overtime goal to move in. You definitely feel a lot better going down to Florida, 1-1, than 0-2, and so it was a big win for us.”

“Obviously, tonight was a huge game for us,” Goodrow said after scoring his fourth goal of the postseason to match his regular-season total. “We weren’t completely satisfied with the way we played in Game 1. I think we want to rebound tonight with a better game, and I think we feel a lot better with how we looked tonight.”

The Rangers showed a more physical side in Game 2 with a big hit by Alexis Lafreniere on Verhaeghe leading to Trochek’s tap-in goal early in the first.

New York also got the win by scoring twice at even strength. Igor Shesterkin is keeping pace with Bobrovsky’s 2.12 goals-against average this postseason by posting a 2.22 GAA.

The win occurred after Laviolette tweaked his lineup by inserting rookie Matt Rempe in place of Kakko Kaapo. Laviolette may be forced into another change if Jimmy Vesey is unable to play due to an upper-body injury.

–Field Level Media

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