Home » Rangers not up to Panthers’ feisty challenge in loss

Rangers not up to Panthers’ feisty challenge in loss

by Marko Florentino
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The Rangers’ last two games before the trade deadline on Friday came against top opponents who they very well could see in the playoffs.

They were both tight, feisty contests. Both games were tied going into the third period. Both were losses.

Monday night’s 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Panthers, the team to beat in the East, only reaffirmed the importance of the moves the Blueshirts will make over the next four days and how they will directly determine whether they can consistently contend with the other marquee Stanley Cup-pursuing teams.

Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers tips the puck with his stick as Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers tries to defend. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“I think we match up against anybody,” Vincent Trocheck said. “It’s just a matter of us being able to change the way we’re doing things whenever something’s not working. I think tonight, they did a really good job of staying on top of us and whenever teams do that, you’ve got to make sure you find a different way to play offensive-zone time. We didn’t do a great job of that tonight.”

The scoreboard read 2-2 at the start of the final frame, which was ultimately the only period played entirely at five-on-five.

Florida had pieced together a few dangerous scoring chances off the rush throughout the night, but none had resulted in a goal until the 6:11 mark of the third period.

Matt Rempe #73 of the New York Rangers positions himself in front of Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Florida Panthers. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Ryan Lomberg flung a long wrist shot that blew past Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin to regain the lead for the visitors.

Shesterkin had been solid and ultimately finished with one less save than his counterpart and compatriot, Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped 26 of the Rangers’ 28 shots.

The game-winning shot grazed Jacob Trouba’s skate and seemed to catch Shesterkin off guard.

“It materialized because there was a call that was missed,” head coach Peter Laviolette said, referring to Panthers forward Kevin Stenlund holding Jonny Brodzinski at the other end just before Florida’s go-ahead goal. “Puck got turned over, they came back immediately off the rush.”

A scuffle breaks out between Nick Cousins #21 of the Florida Panthers and Ryan Lindgren #55 of the New York Rangers. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

This game had some bite to it from the beginning. The hits were hard and came in abundance.

Even Artemi Panarin was throwing his body around and looking to finish his checks.

As a result, special teams generated a bulk of the action through the first two periods.

Adam Fox checked Matthew Tkachuk along the boards in the opening frame, which drew the ire of Sam Bennett and prompted Trocheck to swoop in for backup. Former Ranger Niko Mikkola joined in on pinning Fox and Trocheck against the Panthers’ bench before Tkachuk was ultimately sent to the box for roughing.

In the final seconds of the Rangers’ first power play, Will Cuylle jammed in a rebound to give his team a 1-0 lead.

A pair of goals from Sam Reinhart gave the Panthers their first lead of the night by the 12:56 mark of the second period, the first of which came on Florida’s power play.

Panthers forward Anton Lundell later drew blood from Braden Schneider with a high stick, leading to a four-minute power play for the Rangers.

Chris Kreider then stayed with a rebound off a Trocheck shot and put it past Bobrovsky to knot the game at two-all.

Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers defends the net. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“I think we had some opportunities throughout the game to potentially take a hold of it,” Kreider said. “I think that we gave them a little bit too much time and space at times. The success we had was from checking them tightly and closing and advancing pucks quickly.”

The loss was the Rangers’ second in a row and the second of a month filled with benchmark opponents.

Toronto and Florida were just the start.

Luckily for the Rangers, there could be some new faces in the lineup by the next game on Saturday against the Blues.

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