Rangers declaw Panthers 4-3 in a shootout, lead Presidents’ Trophy race

NHL: Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday night, the New York Rangers completed their first comeback at home when down by two goals (0-9-0) to beat the Florida Panthers 4-3 in a shootout.

Artemi Panarin led the charge with two goals, Adam Fox notched two points (one goal, one assist), and Vincent Trocheck was a beast with three assists, including a game-saving play in overtime. Igor Shesterkin stopped 27 shots, plus two in the shootout to catapult the Rangers into first overall with 98 points.

“When you have ‘Shesty’ back there, you like your odds,” Trocheck said on ABC. “Bread and Mika do their thing, so we have a good opportunity to win every time we go to the shootout.”

Matthew Tkachuk, Eetu Luostarinen, and Carter Verhaeghe scored for the Panthers. Sergei Bobrovsky made 34 saves in the losing effort.

Related: 3 major reasons why Rangers are legit Stanley Cup favorites

New York Rangers 4 vs Florida Panthers 3 (SO)

NHL: Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The opening period saw the Panthers come out hungrier and taking it to the Rangers. Florida picked up steam when Tkachuk nailed K’Andre Miller with a big hit near the boards in the early stages of the match. The tenacious forward eventually would make his presence felt on the scoreboard by tipping Josh Mahura’s point shot at the 8:18 mark over Shesterkin’s shoulder.

New York had a push late in the frame, but the Panthers continued to attack the man with the puck to maintain a lead heading into the second period. That push certainly didn’t carryover. An ill-advised pinch by Erik Gustafsson led to a 2-on-1 rush and a goal by Luostarinen just 21 seconds in to silence the home crowd.

Madison Square Garden came alive at the 13:38 mark of the middle frame when Panthers forward Kyle Okposo was penalized for holding. Fox walked in from the point and scored to get the Blueshirts on the board. For the Rangers defenseman, it was his NHL career-high 14th goal, assisted by Zibanejad and Trocheck.

The Rangers came right back at Bobrovsky when the fourth line pushed the momentum and almost tied the game seconds after Fox’s tally. Feeling the tide turning, Panarin blasted a one-timer to knot things up 2:01 later. Trocheck and Fox had the helpers on the ‘Breadman’s’ 42nd of the year.

In the third period, despite a large disparity in shots favoring the Rangers (10-3), it was Florida that took the lead. Verhaeghe whipped a shot from the right circle past Shesterkin at the 15:52 mark and the Rangers were shockingly down late.

With the Rangers desperate for a goal, it was Panarin who came through once again, this time throwing a puck at a crowded crease for a pinball score only 43 seconds later. That marked his 43rd goal and 99th point of the season with assists going to Zac Jones and Trocheck.

The game needed to be decided in a shootout even though both teams had a glorious chance to win it in OT. A Forsbergesque goal by Zibanejad, coupled with a Panarin tally and two Shesterkin stops gave New York the 4-3 triumph.

New York salvaged the last regular-season meeting to avoid a sweep by the Panthers. The Rangers return to action on Tuesday when they host the Philadelphia Flyers. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. ET.

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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