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Rangers Stars Need to Retaliate in Game 5

The New York Rangers find themselves in a precarious position as they head into Game 5 of the ECF back at MSG. After a disappointing loss in Game 4, the Rangers must regroup and find a way to bounce back on home ice to keep their postseason hopes alive. With the series tied at 2-2, New York fans are feeling uneasy heading into Game 5. 

Game 4 Overview

The Florida Panthers have been relentless all series long. Another game tied after sixty minutes, they evened the series with a hard-fought 3-2 victory putting fans to bed early in OT. Sam Reinhart’s power-play goal 1:12 into the extra frame sealed the win for the Panthers, who had previously lost in overtime in Games 2 and 3. Reinhart’s overtime goal was his eighth of the playoffs and the fastest to begin an overtime period in Panthers history. The Panthers’ power play found their rhythm, going 2-for-4 and improving to 5-for-15 in the series. 

Rangers’ Start Fast and Then Sizzle

Vincent Trocheck opened the scoring early on the power play in the first period and they thought they were off to the races. However, they became passive in the second, allowing the Panthers to dictate the pace and take the lead. 

Despite Alexis Lafrenière tying the game at two early in the third period, the Rangers couldn’t maintain their OT magic. Their first playoff OT loss was long overdue. Maybe it will shift their mindset that they’re not as good as they think they are. Florida has been out working them all series. The Rangers, in fact, are lucky to have this series tied. They’ll need to find a way to counter the Panthers’ relentless pressure and offensive zone passing. Without any adjustments they’ll lose any upper hand they have in this series.

Rangers Power Play Struggles

They lived and died by it in the first two rounds. Now, it is catching up with them in the worst way. The Rangers’ power play has struggled throughout the series. After going 0-for-8 in the first three games, they finally broke through with Vincent Trocheck’s goal in the first period of Game 4. Trocheck’s one-timer from the high slot gave New York a brief 1-0 lead, but they were barely holding on. The contrasting fortunes of the two teams’ power plays is hurting them in the worst way.

Without consistency on special teams, this run is over. They showed a glimpse of it on a power play in the third period, but no goal scored. They’ll need to generate more high-quality chances and find a way to beat Bobrovsky. He has been sharp all series long and there’ll be no easy ones. 

Defensive Strategies and Challenges

The Rangers have managed to hang in each of the last three games, but they have been outplayed. The only reasons they won Games 2 and 3 were largely due to the spectacular play of Igor Shesterkin. However, they have not been able to gain a significant edge in puck possession, board play, or shot volume. To add, they have also faced troubling trends in the past two games; continuing from Round 2 against Carolina, the Rangers are getting out shot. The onslaught continues as the Panthers severely out shot them by an 88-44 margin in Game 4 and more than doubling the high-danger chances (16-6). This shows just how much Shesterkin is constantly under and the masterclass he has to put on night in and night out. 

Panthers’ Offensive Pressure

The Panthers have demonstrated their depth, with third- and fourth-line players like Anton Lundell, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Eetu Luostarinen winning nearly every puck battle. Florida’s stars have also been shining, with Sasha Barkov being the best all-around player on the ice, Carter Verhaeghe the most dynamic offensive force, and Matthew Tkachuk both an agitator and key playmaker.

The Panthers have kept the pressure on the Rangers with decisive playmaking in the offensive zone, throwing the puck around with impunity and winning relentless puck battles in the corners and along the boards. This age-old formula for winning in the playoffs means the Panthers are better and more skilled than their opponents.

Adjustments and Performances

To bounce back and win this series New York has their hands full. First, they must exit the defensive zone efficiently. No more sloppy turnovers that won’t let them establish their forecheck and play more in the Panthers’ end. Once they advance the puck up the ice and establish an offensive zone presence, they’ll need to start winning the battles in front of the net again. It just hasn’t happened as timely as in rounds one and two. 

The Rangers’ top forwards, particularly Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, have been negated by the Panthers’ top line of Verhaeghe, Barkov, and Reinhart. Barkov’s line is winning every shift. They are forcing the Rangers top players to spend too much of the night hemmed in the defensive zone with little offensive pressure of their own. Shockingly, neither Kreider nor Zibanejad have registered a point through four games. Fans are becoming restless as they will need the Rangers All-Stars to retaliate and match the firepower in Game 5.

History In The Making 

Through four games it is now a Best-Of-3 with the Rangers having home ice advantage. The outcome of this will largely depend on the Rangers’ ability to generate sustained offensive pressure, improve their power play, and neutralize the Panthers’ relentless attack.

As the series progresses, the margin for error becomes increasingly slim. The Rangers will need to bring a desperate sense of urgency to regain control of their destiny. By focusing on their strengths, making strategic adjustments, and leveraging the support of their passionate fan base, the Rangers have the opportunity to seize control of the series and move one step closer to their ultimate goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Final.


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