New York Rangers pleased with effort after long layoff

rangers blow lead
Dec 29, 2021; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Patric Hornqvist (70) pushes New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) during the third period at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Carter Verhaeghe scored the go-ahead goal with 9:29 left in the third period as the host Florida Panthers rallied to beat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Wednesday night in Sunrise, Fla.

The Panthers entered the third trailing 2-1, but they tied the score on a goal by MacKenzie Weegar and went ahead on Verhaeghe’s wrist shot. Anthony Duclair followed with Florida’s third goal of the period.

New York pulled goalie Igor Shesterkin (28 saves) for an extra attacker and got a Chris Kreider goal with 45 seconds left, cutting its deficit to 4-3. But the Rangers ran out of time as they searched for the equalizer.

Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves to earn the win. Rookie Anton Lundell scored Florida’s other goal.

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Rangers pleased with their effort

The Rangers (Dec. 17) and Panthers (Dec. 16) each played their first game after a league-wide hiatus. Both squads entered the game ranked among the top six in the NHL in points percentage.

The Panthers, who lead the NHL in home wins (15-3-0), prevailed for the first time since Dec. 10. They hadn’t won a home game since Dec. 4.

Despite the loss, the Rangers took plenty of positives away from the game.

“I was real happy with the first two periods, obviously,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “I thought it was a good game, both teams back and forth, good goaltending, good solid play from both teams. In the third, we got away from it and made a couple of mistakes and they ended up in the back of the net… overall it was good.”

New York, tied for second in the league in road wins (11-5-2), opened the scoring with 11:08 gone in the first period as Ryan Strome’s long pass connected with Panarin on a breakaway, one-on-one with Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Panarin stickhandled the puck behind his back and let it trail between his legs, leaving Ekblad flailing. Panarin then slipped the puck between Bobrovsky’s pads to complete a spectacular play.

rangers panthers
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Florida tied the score with 5:09 expired in the second. The play started with a Panarin turnover collected by Ryan Lomberg, whose shot was saved by Shesterkin. Gustav Forsling gathered and shot from the circle. Shesterkin stopped the puck again, but this time he left a juicy rebound in the slot for Lundell.

“I liked the way we played for the majority of the game,” Jacob Trouba said. “Third period we got a little sloppy, too many breakdowns and it cost us the game.”

Panarin atoned for his mistake later in the second, stealing the puck from Radko Gudas and dishing a backhander to his right. Zibanejad came racing in to collect the pass and scored on an open right side of the net.

Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad each had one goal and one assist for New York.

A bad third period cost them dearly

The Panthers stayed in the game thanks to the excellent goaltending of Bobrovsky, who made several big stops in the third period to prevent the Rangers from going up 3-1.

“The third period didn’t start real well,” Gallant explained. “We were a little loose and we just didn’t get our traction after that.”

The Panthers tied the score with 14:04 left in the third on the goal by Weegar. Verhaeghe’s wrist shot deflected in off of Shesterkin’s blocker, and Duclair scored with 5:20 left on a blistering shot just below the crossbar.

Duclair’s goal helped Florida withstand New York’s rally, which featured Kreider’s tap-in tally. For the Rangers this would be their first regulation loss when entering the third period with a lead (10-1-3)

“You’re not going to find a team that doesn’t blow a third period lead through the course of the year,” Trouba noted. “We played a good game for the most part– correct some mistakes we made in the third period and we will be fine.”

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–Field Level Media contributed to this article

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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