Rangers can’t capitalize on another dominant Shesterkin performance

Sergei Bobrovsky made 21 saves, Aleksander Barkov had a pair of assists, including a dish to set up Sam Reinhardt's overtime winner, and the Florida Panthers evened the series with a 3-2 overtime win over the Rangers.

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers peppered Igor Shesterkin with shot after shot Tuesday night, and the New York Rangers goalie had an answer for almost all of them.

It wasn’t enough, and despite 37 saves and another stellar performance from Shesterkin, the Rangers fell 3-2 in overtime of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.

With the teams knotted at two wins apiece, the series will head back to New York for Game 5, with the Rangers needing to find some answers to complement the play of their goaltender, who Rangers coach Peter Laviolette praised after the loss.

“He was (dialled in),” Laviolette said, “especially in the second, there was a lot of heat there.”

New York jumped out to a one-goal lead at 8:51 of the first when Vincent Trocheck fired a shot past Sergei Bobrovsky that ricocheted off the crossbar into the goal.

It was the Rangers’ first power-play goal of the series after they’d gone 0 for 8 entering the game, and it reflected an energetic start that dissipated as the game went on.

Florida took the lead on goals from Sam Bennett and Carter Verhaeghe in the second period, when the Panthers seemed to completely overpower New York.

“We’ve got to be better,” Laviolette said. “We can’t afford lapses like that. I don’t have an explanation. It was the same thing, they come out, they’re chasing it, they press, and I didn’t think the response was good to start the second period. We went in there, we had to kill some penalties from there. I definitely think we need to be better.”

Rangers center Mika Zibanejad said he felt New York allowed Florida to dictate the second period.

“I think we played a pretty good first period, set ourselves up. The second period was not what we wanted. Good job in the third tying the game up and giving ourselves a chance. Overall not the result we wanted. It’s the best out of three. We go home and try to take care of Game 5.”

Still, Shesterkin gave New York a chance. He made a huge stop against Florida’s Kyle Okposo after Alexis Lafrenière had tied it 2-2 in the third, denying Okposo with his right pad to help send the game to overtime.

That was one game after Shesterkin made 33 stops and withstood a late Florida barrage in which the Panthers unleashed 24 shot attempts at him in the final eight minutes of regulation.

The 2022 Vezina Trophy winner is allowing around two goals per game through the postseason with a .925 save percentage and has been one of the central pieces to New York’s run.

“He’s obviously one of the best goalies in the league,” Verhaeghe said, “and they’re here for a reason. Every team has a really good goalie, and he’s one of the best. I think it’s just making his life difficult. We can look at some things, but it’s mostly making his life difficult.”

Less than a minute into overtime Tuesday, Blake Wheeler, playing his first game for the Rangers since breaking his right leg in February, was called for hooking Panthers Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov.

Barkov then set Sam Reinhart up for the winning power-play goal.

“Listen, we’re playing a team that’s good on the power play and the penalty kill,” Laviolette said, “and we have been as well. You’re right, they got us tonight. Tomorrow is a new day.”

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