Rangers need refs to stop taking Panthers bait

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have been left scratching their heads with what seems to be a number of Florida Panthers embellishing in order to draw penalties in the Eastern Conference Final.

In the 5-4 overtime win in Game 3 on Sunday, it appeared several times that a Panthers’ player was overacting to catch the attention of the officials. It almost cost the Rangers when captain Jacob Trouba was called for holding on Matthew Tkachuk with 5:37 remaining in the third period of a tie game.

Looking at the replay, it’s clear that Trouba never held Tkachuk, who looked like he was taking a swan dive off a springboard. Fortunately, the Rangers were able to kill it off and set the stage for Alex Wennberg’s winner in the extra session.

Of course, that wasn’t the only time someone in a red jersey was throwing themselves on the ice. The most egregious incident occurred in the first period with the Rangers breaking out of the zone on a 4-on-2 rush. A split second before the breakout, Trouba bumped Sam Reinhart who proceeded to go down as if he was hit by a train. The refs, fearing a serious injury, stopped the play even though the Blueshirts had possession of the puck.

Even Ray Ferraro during ESPN’s broadcast was left baffled by the stoppage, citing that unless the player is in need of medical attention there’s no reason to blow the whistle. By the way, Reinhart got right up and never missed a shift.

“They thought the player was injured to the point where they had to stop,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette told the NY Post on Monday. “I don’t think my opinion matters at this point. [But] because it happened, I would like to see the play continue.” 

Related: Rangers prep for ‘growly’ Panthers

Rangers need officials to stop taking Panthers bait

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest plays in the game came during the second period, with Trouba already going to the box for a slash. On the delayed call, Trouba was beaten by a speeding Evan Rodrigues, and used an elbow to slow him down. The officials rightfully called that penalty too, and reviewed it for a major with Rodrigues holding his head after the hit.

When watching the first replay angle, it looks like the primary point of contact was Rodrigues’ jaw. However, on the second angle, it appears that Trouba gets the shoulder of a ducking Rodrigues first. No major was called, and Trouba was justifiably fined $5,000 by the League. It should be noted that Rodrigues did not miss a shift as well.

“Take the hat, pass it around. Poor lad. Poor Jake. He won’t be able to eat,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice joked on Monday.

Make no mistake, Florida knows what they are doing, and who they are doing it against. Trouba is a lightning rod for such calls due to his hard-hitting style. He also has a reputation for walking a fine line on many of his hits, so any wise opponent would try and make that play in their favor.

That being said, don’t think for a second the NHL isn’t looking at the Panthers exaggerating to draw penalties. In Game 3 of the Western Conference Final on Monday, Dallas Stars forward Mason Marchment was called for embellishment on a penalized cross-check from Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman.

The Athletic’s Michael Russo stated that it was a bad call, but due to Marchment’s reputation to embellish, he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Is it possible the League sent out a memo to their officials about an increase in diving? If so, that could benefit the Rangers greatly. Currently, Florida holds a 13-10 advantage in power plays. Even if the refs start swallowing their whistles, it would help keep the Panthers’ effective power play off the ice as they have three power-play goals in this series.

Although, one embellishment call against the Panthers could change the dynamic of how things play out the rest of the way. With puck drop scheduled for 8:00 PM ET on Tuesday, it will certainly be something to keep an eye on.

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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