RECAP: Panthers 3, Rangers 2

31 May 2024
Florida Panthers

NEW YORK – Almost there.

Moving within one win of a second consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Florida Panthers rode another strong third period to a thrilling 3-2 win over the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

Going up 3-2 in the series, the Panthers will try to close things out in Game 6 on Thursday in Sunrise.

“I don’t think we’ve thought about it at all,” Panthers forward Sam Bennett said of the road ahead. “Our approach is one game at a time. We’ve got business to take care of still. All that we’re thinking about is Game 6 at home. Our entire focus is on that game right now.”

As for Game 5, the Panthers once again played a tight game on the road.

With both goaltenders making some big stops, the first period came and went with no goals. For the Panthers, Sergei Bobrovsky’s biggest sequence came when he stopped Vincent Trocheck on a partial breakaway and then denied Adam Fox’s quick follow-up attempt.

After 20 minutes, Florida trailed 11-8 in shots on goal, but had 10 of its shots blocked.

Netting their second shorthanded goal of the series, the Rangers broke the ice in the second period when Chris Kreider, who hadn’t cracked the scoresheet in the first four games of the series, beat Bobrovsky on a breakaway to make it 1-0 at 2:04.

Getting that goal back for the Panthers, Bennett threaded a dazzno-look pass through the slot to Gustav Forsling, who then beat Igor Shesterkin with a slick top-shelf backhand from the right side of the net to make it 1-1 at 8:21.

Forsling and Bennett are tied for first on the Panthers with four even-strength points each in the series.

“I was taking it to the middle, and they kind of backed off a little bit,” Bennett said of the play. “I had Chucky (Matthew Tkachuk) on my left as well. I was thinking about passing to him, but then Goose (Forsling) made a great play and just skated right to the net. I was able to find him in the middle and it was a great finish by him as well.”

Coming out flying to start the third period, the Panthers led 7-1 in shots on goal through the first 6:58 of the period before the Rangers earned a power play. Strong on the penalty kill all series, the Panthers held New York to just two shots on goal on the ensuing man advantage.

Through five games against New York, the Panthers have gone 13-for-14 on the penalty kill.

“Guys do their job,” Bobrovsky said of the penalty kill. “They read, they play loose and they work really hard. [The Rangers] have got a really good power play. They’ve got really good weapons.”

On a 3-on-2 rush, the Panthers took the lead when Anton Lundell took a pass from Eetu Luostarinen, waited patiently and then fired a shot in transition from the center of the left circle that caught a piece of Shesterkin before sailing into the net to make it 2-1 at 10:22.

Very involved on the goal, Vladimir Tarasenko helped out with a nice screen in front.

“That was huge,” Lundell said. “We had some good chances in the third. We were playing really good. It felt like we had just chance after chance. We just kept gridning and trusted that we were going to get a chance at a goal. When we got it, we just tried to stay on top of them and keep the lead.”

After the Rangers pulled Shesterkin for the extra attacker, the Panthers padded their lead when Bennett won a battle along the boards in the neutral zone before cashing in on the empty net to make it 3-1 at 18:08.

In what’s become an important trend in this series, the Panthers once again played arguably their best hockey in the third period, leading 14-7 in shots on goal, 12-5 in scoring chances and 8-2 in high-danger shot attempts, according to

“Understanding the style of hockey we like to play, it almost took the third period to get there,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said. “I found it to be an unusual game. In the first period it looked like if you could get a handle on the darn thing you were going to get lots. … We just couldn’t get a handle on some of the good offense. I thought our game got very simple in the third period, and that was the key to it. Not trying to break the game open, not trying for the killer play, just grinding."

Making things interesting with 49.7 seconds left, Mika Zibanejad fired a shot that caught a piece of Alexis Lafrenière and found its way past Bobrovsky to cut New York’s deficit to 3-2.

Bobrovsky finished with 25 saves; Shesterkin stopped 34 of 36 shots.

From there, the Panthers battened down the hatches and held on for the win.

Now, it’s just about getting one more.

“It’s great,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. “It was a good battle by us. We showed up and played really well. Happy for the win. Now we’ve just got to recover and get ready for the next one.”


“We just decided after the second period that it was time to step up – everybody. We all wanted to step up. We felt like it was important for our line to give momentum, to give energy to the team.” – Anton Lundell

“Just to know the grind and how hard it is, how much it takes to have success to make it this far, it takes a lot. I think we learned a lot last year. We made some mistakes. We’ve just grown as a group. I think we’ve seen even more leadership from the entire group.” – Sam Bennett

“It was a good win, good game. I thought the guys did a great job. It was a tight game.” – Sergei Bobrovsky

“[Our defense] has been good. We’ve been dialed in. Bob (Sergei Bobrovsky) has obviously been huge for us every single game. That helps a lot. As a team, as a five-man unit, we’re battling and doing the right things.” – Aleksander Barkov

"Gustav Forsling, for me, in his style is the best defenseman in the world." – Paul Maurice


- Sergei Bobrovsky improved to 7-2 in his nine career appearances in the Conference Finals.

- The Panthers own an all-time record of 3-1 when leading a best-of-seven series 3-2.

- The Panthers led 18-7 in high-danger shot attempts at 5-on-5.

- The Panthers controlled a 71.43% of shot attempts at 5-on-5 when Matthew Tkachuk was deployed.

- Oliver Ekman-Larsson made a team-high eight hits.

- Aaron Ekblad blocked a team-high five shots.

- Sam Bennett has scored in each of the last two games.


The Panthers will try to close out the series at home and punch their return ticket to the Stanley Cup Final when they host the Rangers for Game 6 at Amerant Bank Arena on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

For tickets, click here.

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