Sergei Bobrovsky, Panthers blank Rangers in Game 1

League: NHL

Posted on: 23 May, 2024 at 05:26 AM

Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK -- For most of Game 1, Sergei Bobrovsky seldom had any activity because his teammates constantly bottled up the New York Rangers.

His workload increased in the third period, and the Florida Panthers goaltender was more than up to the challenge.

Bobrovsky made 11 of his 23 saves in the third and the Panthers opened the Eastern Conference final with a 3-0 victory over the Rangers on Wednesday night.

"I think you have to be a veteran goalie to do what he did tonight, sit for a while and sense the last 10 minutes," Florida coach Paul Maurice said. "That's where he has to be."

The Panthers will look to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series Friday night before the series shifts to Florida for Games 3 and 4.

Matthew Tkachuk scored his fifth playoff goal with 3:34 remaining in the opening period and Bobrovsky made it stand up, especially in the third. Carter Verhaeghe added an insurance tally with 3:48 left in the third, his seventh of the postseason, and Sam Bennett finished it off with an empty-net score for his third postseason goal.

After the Rangers mustered 12 shots on goal through the first two periods, including one stretch where they went about 14 minutes without a shot, Bobrovsky delivered before Florida pulled away in the final four minutes.

Before Florida got its second goal, Bobrovsky made consecutive pad saves on Alexander Wennberg with about 7 1/2 minutes remaining. He then helped kill off a New York power play when Florida was called for having too many men on the ice by denying Vincent Trocheck and Adam Fox.

"They're a good team, they're a really good team and you're going to have to come up (with big saves) especially in the end with that tight score," Bobrovsky said. "So they're going to bring their best and the guys did a great job."

Bobrovsky allowed two goals or fewer for the sixth straight game in this postseason and recorded his second career playoff shutout. The Rangers had only been shut out once all season -- including the playoffs -- before Game 1.

"He's (an) unreal goalie and we're lucky to have him," Florida captain Aleksandar Barkov said.

Florida improved to 5-1 on the road in the postseason after tying the Dallas Stars for the NHL lead with 26 regular-season road wins. After stopping 53 shots in three wins in Boston in the second round, Bobrovsky has 76 saves in his past four road games.

"He's been unbelievable all playoffs," Verhaeghe said. "I can't say enough about him."

Bobrovsky was also aided by an aggressive defense that blocked 19 shots and forced 12 giveaways.

"Win 1-0, be physical, go to the forecheck, I guess it was kind of your ideal road win for and how we want to play," Tkachuk said.

The Rangers constantly struggled to gain any traction offensively and encountered strong Florida defense whenever they attempted to sustain any offensive pressure. New York lost for the third time in four games after starting the postseason with seven straight victories.

"I think we can play better," New York coach Peter Laviolette said. "I don't think that was the best version of ourselves. I think there's more for us to give, and more for us to do out there."

"A little too late," New York's Chris Kreider said of the third period. "Yeah, we had looks, we had a few breakaways but our whole entire game has got to be a lot better."

New York goalie Igor Shesterkin stopped 25 shots.

The Panthers constantly hounded the Rangers into misplaying the puck and scored after Gustav Forsling forced Artemi Panarin into a turnover. As Panarin was about to set up a shot from the right faceoff circle, he lost it to Forsling, who quickly moved the puck through the neutral zone and into the Florida zone.

"It was a big goal," Verhaeghe said. "It definitely got (us) going. It took a lot of momentum out of their sails."

Forsling regained possession and made a quick drop pass to Tkachuk. Before Fox could get in position for the block, Tkachuk released a wrist shot from slightly above the left circle that trickled off Shesterkin's left pad and into the net.

The Panthers appeared to take a 2-0 lead with 11:15 remaining in the third when Vladimir Tarasenko's shot from the left circle got past Shesterkin. After officials reviewed the play, the goal was disallowed because Florida's Ryan Lomberg interfered with Shesterkin in the crease jostling for position with New York defenseman Ryan Lindgren.

Florida got its second goal when New York's Alexis Lafreniere attempted to intercept Verhaeghe's pass to Tkachuk and tipped into the net.

--Larry Fleisher, Field Level Media