Panthers eliminate Rangers with 2-1 victory in Eastern Conference final

Panthers eliminate Rangers with 2-1 victory in Eastern Conference final

Game 6 was do-or-die for the Rangers after falling behind the Panthers, 3-2, in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Blueshirts’ dreams of a fifth Stanley Cup officially died at Amerant Bank Arena on Saturday night.

The Panthers defeated the Rangers, 2-1, and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in franchise history (1996, 2023) after winning the series, 4-2.

Last season, the Panthers lost in five games to the Golden Knights. Florida will face either Edmonton or Dallas in the Stanley Cup Final, which begins June 8.

The Rangers won the Presidents Trophy to stay home during the postseason, just like in 1994. But unlike 1994, when they trailed the Devils in the Eastern Conference finals, the Rangers couldn’t find the magic to overcome a 3-2 deficit.

The Rangers lost three straight games to lose the series. It was their longest losing streak since January.

“It was tough to score,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “Generate the quality of what we wanted to generate. We knew it at the beginning and we knew it from the way they finished the season, we knew it from the first and second round.

“Coming in, they weren’t giving up much and ultimately that was something we were able to do pretty consistently throughout the year. “You look at the scores, you look at the low-scoring games, and ultimately you just try to find the next goal.”

Sam Bennett scored Florida’s first goal of the night after a one-timer with 50 seconds left in the first period. Vladimir Tarasenko also scored a goal in the third period.

With 1:40 left, Artemi Panarin scored the Rangers’ only goal.

As with most of the series, the goaltending was excellent. Sergei Bobrovsky recorded 23 stops. Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin allowed two goals on 34 shots.

The game was tied until the end of the first half.

After Vincent Trocheck went to the penalty box for hooking, Florida got the first power play of the game. Although the Panthers had three chances to score a power-play goal, the Rangers overturned the penalty.

The Blueshirts had their first power play and a chance to take an early lead after Kyle Okposo was penalized for interference. Coming into Game 6, the Rangers were 1-for-14 in power play opportunities. They recorded 10 of 25 power plays during the first two series against the Capitals and Hurricanes.

The Rangers’ power play problems continued after they failed to score a goal while Okposo was in the penalty area.

The game remained tied until the final seconds of the first half. With 50 seconds left, Bennett put the Panthers on the board, 1-0, on a single pass from Evan Rodrigues.

Bennett tied the record for longest playoff scoring streak (three). The Panthers entered Saturday’s game 7-0 when scoring first in potentially series-deciding games.

Florida recorded 13 shots in the first quarter, while the Blueshirts made eight.

The game remained scoreless in the second period and the Panthers outshot the Rangers, 11-9. Florida had a chance to extend its lead after K’Andre Miller handed the puck to Bennett in the neutral zone, allowing Matthew Tkachuk to get a shot on goal. However, Shesterkin stopped the puck.

The Rangers scored 114 goals during the regular season, seventh in the NHL. But they were held in check by the Panthers’ suffocating defense and physical nature.

“It’s frustrating, we had our opportunities,” Rangers center Mika Zibanejad said. “We were pushing and obviously we were late. You try not to get frustrated on the bench, and we did a pretty good job of trying to stay the course and take the next shift and try to get something done. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I thought we tried to throw everything we had, but today it wasn’t enough.”

Florida did not want to lose its 1-0 lead in the third period. The team was active and took four shots on goal in the first three minutes.

The Panthers had a chance to score, but Shesterkin robbed Tarasenko.

With less than 15 minutes left, one of the linesmen was hit by a puck and fell to all fours, but remained in the game.

Florida took a 2-0 lead 9:08 into the third period after Tarasenko’s wrist shot beat Shesterkin. Anton Lundell and Eetu Luostarinen assisted on Tarasenko’s goal.

“Nobody gave up,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. “I thought they competed, but they came up short.

“A one-goal game. The series, I don’t think you can say that they don’t deserve to win; They definitely deserved to win the series. We were right there. “We just came up a little short.”

The Rangers finally scored with 1:40 left, and Shesterkin exited the game with 2:24 left for an additional attacker. Panarin got a wrist shot past Bobrovsky, but the Rangers couldn’t score again to extend the series back to Madison Square Garden for Game 7.

“Our guys fought this year,” Laviolette said. “They committed from the beginning, they fought. We get to this point, it’s still disappointing.

“When you start something like this, you don’t do it to get three playoff wins or five playoff wins, you do it to go all the way. At this moment there is a disappointment that surely takes over our group.

“We are dealing with that right now. We were hoping to come here and win a hockey game and bring it back to MSG for a Game 7. With that comes disappointment.”