Rangers Shop at Find-A-Way and Stun Panthers in Overtime

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

The Rangers are shopping at the Find-A-Way market and they’re stripping the shelf in the aisle marked winning goals. It took over 65 minutes of resilience, grit and character but the Rangers continue to find a way to pull out wins as they’ve been doing this entire post season.

Alex Wennberg scored at 5:35 of overtime as the Rangers stole a 5-4 win from the Florida Panthers at the Amerant Bank Arena Sunday afternoon to take a two games to one lead in the Stanley Cup Semi-Final.

Game 4 is Tuesday night in Florida.

Wennberg got behind the Panthers defense and was able to deflect a Ryan Lindgren shot past goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for a most improbable win.

“You see the puck go in the net, it’s just burst of energy, burst of all kinds of feelings,” said Wennberg.

Igor Shesterkin was brilliant once again as he made 33 saves but the game would never have gotten to overtime without his stellar play. “At the end of the day you need a goalie to help out and he does it more than once or twice. It’s a good feeling to have that goalie to have those saves and make a difference,” said Wennberg.

Florida outshot the Rangers, 37-23, including an 18-8 advantage in the third period and overtime, but the Blueshirts prevailed and are 4-0 in overtime in this post season.

The game winning play began on a face off in the Panthers zone. Wennberg took the draw and Kappo Kakko, who returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in game two, got the puck to Jack Roslovic, who fed Lindgren at the point. Lindgren fired it toward the net and it deflected off Wennberg’s stick and into the net for the game winner.

Alexis Lafreniere and Barclay Goodrow, who is reminding older Ranger fans of Esa Tikkanen, a noted playoff player, scored two goals apiece. Goodrow, who had only 4 goals during the regular season, has scored three in the last two games and has totaled 6 in the post season.

Two years ago, Goodrow reportedly broke his ankle blocking a shot in game one of the first round series against Pittsburgh and did not return until 25 days later in game 6 vs. Carolina. Despite his return, the Ranger forward was not healthy and it showed in the six game loss to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Final. Goodrow is healthy this season and the Rangers are benefitting from his presence and playoff experience.

He’s [Goodrow] dialed in and focused and he’s capitalizing on his chances. He’s doing the dirty work and he’s capitalized on his chances offensively,” said Coach Peter Laviolette.

Lindgren, Jacob Trouba and Vincent Trocheck each had two assists. Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin have yet to register a point, yet the Rangers have the lead in the series.

Sam Reinhart’s power play goal at 2:50 of the first period gave Florida a 1-0 lead. Reinhart, who has been a demon on the power play this season, left Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller flatfooted as he skated along the goal line and beat Shesterkin with a quick backhander.

Speaking of quick, the Rangers struck twice in a :25 second span to take a 2-1 lead.

First, it was Lafreniere who scored his 5th goal of the playoffs to tie the game at the 7:17 mark. Vincent Trocheck, who had two assists, fed a streaking Lafreniere who beat Bobrovsky up high with a backhander to make it a 1-1 game.

25 seconds later, Goodrow deflected a Braden Schneider shot from the point past Bobrovsky as the Rangers took their first lead of the game. Matt Rempe was in front and may have distracted Bobrovsky enough to prevent him from making the save.

Florida was on the power play when Reinhart tied the game with his second goal of the game at 14:46 of the first period and the teams skated off tied at two.

The Rangers took six penalties but after giving up two power play goals, they were able to keep the Panthers from scoring with the man advantage for the remainder of the game.

Lafreniere’s second goal of the game late in the second period gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead and it was a thing of beauty. The 22 year old right wing, who had a point blank chance moments earlier, beat three Panthers with a toe drag and then beat Bobrovsky again with a back hand that went off the post and into the back of net for his 6th of the playoffs. “I had speed coming, you know just try to make a move and lucky enough it went in,” Lafreniere said.

With 2:25 left in the second period, Trouba was called for two minors, giving Florida a four minute power play but that worked to the Rangers’ advantage when Goodrow scored a shorthanded goal for his second of the game.

Goodrow cleared the puck all the way down. Trocheck beat Brandon Montour to the puck and he skated behind the Panthers net and found a trailing Goodrow who fired it past Bobrovsky to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead after two.

You knew Florida would come hard in the third and they did to score twice in a less than a two minute span to tie the game at four.

They started well. They got the goal, they pressed, they got another one, the building’s in it so it’s moving in their direction,” Laviolette said. “I do think we came out of the timeout with probably three or four good shifts in a row but they got it into overtime. Shesty [Shesterkin] had to make a couple of big saves along the way after that from that point but big goal for us in overtime.”

Alexander Barkov was in front and took a pass from Carter Verhaeghe and poked it past Shesterkin to make it a one goal game.

Less than two minutes later, the Panthers won a face off in the Ranger zone and Gustav Forsling beat Shesterkin top shelf from the left face off circle to tie the game with over 13 minutes left in regulation.

From there, Florida had numerous chances but Shesterkin was equal to the task.

After Shesterkin stopped Matthew Tkachuk on a shot in close with 11:30 left, Laviolette took a time out to settle his team down.

The Rangers had some chances after the timeout, but Florida kept the pressure up for the remainder of the third period.

With just over 8 minutes left, Forsling hit the post but a few moments later, Barkov was called for a double minor for high sticking Zibanejad and it appeared the Rangers would get a golden opportunity to take the lead. After a review, the officials found that Barkov lifted Zibanejad’s own stick into his face, negating the penalty.

With 5:37 remaining, Florida got their sixth power play opportunity of the game when Trouba was called for holding. The Rangers needed a big kill and thanks to Shesterkin, they got it.

The Ranger goaltender made three saves to help kill off the penalty and then four more, including a point blank chance by Tkachuk with less than a minute left, before the game went to overtime as the Panthers had a 13-4 shot advantage in the final 20 minutes.

We have kind of a no panic mentality that we’ve kinda relied on in those moments when we’re under siege,” Goodrow said.

The Rangers were pleased to get to overtime because they were able to reset and get back to playing their game. “We have that belief in the team group,” Wennberg said. “Maybe not the most vocal kind of thing but we all look at each other and we know what to do. Obviously, you see when we get out there and get the job done.”

In OT, Florida had a two on one in the opening minute but Shesterkin denied Barkov once again.

The Panthers had the better of the play in the extra session as they were outshooting the Rangers 5-1 nearly four minutes into overtime but it only took one shot for Wennberg to score the game winner, only his second goal as a Ranger and first this post season.

We had been in that situation in overtime quite a few times already in the post season and our guys have responded and handled it really well,” said Laviolette.

The Rangers will need their big guns to get going and the half full crowd will say Zibanejad, Kreider and Panarin are due.

Florida better hope they stay silent.

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