NHL: Panthers tie up series with OT win over Rangers

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Sam Reinhart won the offensive zone faceoff and quickly moved to center ice, waiting for his teammates to cycle the puck around the offensive zone.

With plenty of room and the space he craved, Reinhart did what he had done so often during the regular season: score a power-play goal. His latest assured a return trip to home ice for the Florida Panthers.

Reinhart scored a power-play goal 1:12 into overtime and the Panthers beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Tuesday night in Sunrise, Fla., to even the Eastern Conference final at two games apiece.

Game 5 is Thursday in New York, and the Panthers will get at least one more postseason home game thanks to Reinhart.

After scoring a league-best 27 power-play goals during the regular season and two in the first period of Game 3 on Sunday, Reinhart quickly got his chance in the opening moments of overtime during a sequence in which the Panthers made about 10 passes.

“It was about as well executed as it can be,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “It was a bunch of elite guys with elite hands.”

The Panthers won 13 seconds after Blake Wheeler was called for a hooking penalty on Aleksander Barkov following a neutral zone turnover by Mika Zibanejad. Barkov was taken down from behind between the circles. After an offensive zone faceoff win by Reinhart, the Panthers easily moved the puck around.

“They got behind us,” New York coach Peter Laviolette said of the penalty that led to the game-winner. “It was a turnover at the offensive blue line, and it was a tough spot for him to be in. There was a lot of heat, a lot of pressure. It was more what they did, I think, than him doing something. He was surrounded by a couple of players.”

Reinhart positioned himself in between the circles, got a pass from Barkov and, before New York defenseman Ryan Lindgren could block the shot, he released a shot that cleanly went over Igor Shesterkin’s left shoulder for his eighth goal of the postseason.

It was the fastest overtime goal in Florida’s playoff history and Reinhart’s third career winning goal in the postseason.

“We’ve had a lot of close games,” Barkov said. “A lot of overtime games. That experience helped. We believe it’s going to come. And it did today.”

“We have so much belief in this locker room that someone is going to get it done,” Florida’s Sam Bennett added. “It was Reino tonight.”

Bennett and Carter Verhaeghe scored 3:31 apart during Florida’s dominant second period, but Alexis Lafreniere scored the tying goal 3:28 into the third. After Lafreniere’s tying goal, the Rangers mustered two shots on goal the rest of the way.

“We can’t afford lapses like that,” Laviolette said. “I don’t have an explanation. I definitely think that we need to be better.”

Vincent Trocheck scored a power-play goal in the first period for the Rangers, who were scoreless on their first eight man advantages of the series. Adam Fox and Artemi Panarin collected two assists apiece for the Rangers.

Bobrovsky made 21 saves while Shesterkin stopped 37 shots.

After Anton Lundell committed a high-sticking penalty on rookie Will Cuylle, the Rangers took the lead. Trocheck won a faceoff against Kevin Stenlund in the right circle with 11:17 left, cut to the middle of the slot, waited for a pass from Panarin and had ample time to rip a slap shot that went over Bobrovsky’s right shoulder and caromed off the crossbar.

Bennett forged a 1-1 tie 8:45 into the second. His initial shot was stopped by Shesterkin, but the goaltender did not control the shot from the right side of the net and the puck trickled in off his pad.

During a delay-of-game penalty to Barclay Goodrow, the Panthers peppered Shesterkin again.

Matthew Tkachuk’s cross-ice pass initially caromed off Verhaeghe’s right shoulder and banked off Lindgren’s helmet. Verhaeghe got the puck after it went off Lindgren and batted the puck over Shesterkin’s left shoulder.

The Rangers tied it early in the third thanks to a slick play by Fox. He weaved into the offensive zone, eluded Steven Lorentz and sent a backhanded pass from the edge of the left circle to Lafreniere at the edge of the right side of the crease. Lafreniere finished the play by redirecting the pass past Bobrovsky with 16:32 left in regulation.

–Larry Fleisher, Field Level Media

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