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After a tough start against the Panthers, the Rangers have rallied to even the Eastern Conference Final, taking the lead without relying on their usual top scorers. It’s an intriguing twist that leaves us wondering how the rest of the series will unfold. Whether it’s a good or bad sign remains to be seen, but it’s a crucial factor to consider as we look at the first three games.

So far, Barclay Goodrow’s three goals and Alexis Lafreniere’s two have accounted for a significant 62.5% of the Rangers’ goals against Florida. These contributions from a fourth-liner and the promising 2020 first-overall pick have been vital against a Panthers team that has outscored them 8-7.

In addition to Goodrow and Lafreniere, Vincent Trocheck opened the scoring in Game 2, and Alex Wennberg clinched Game 3 with an overtime winner. Surprisingly, top-line players like Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin, and 2021 Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox have yet to score a goal in the series, with only Panarin and Fox managing one assist each.

Head coach Peter Laviolette emphasized the team effort required to succeed. “It’s a team sport,” he said. “We need everybody contributing. Not everybody can be the story. For the good of the team, not for any individual reasons. It takes a team to keep moving on.”

The Rangers have had to adapt, dressing three different lineups due to coaching decisions and Jimmy Vesey’s injury, which will keep him out week-to-week. Filip Chytil replaced Jack Roslovic in Games 2 and 3, while Kreider, Zibanejad, and Chytil have faced the Panthers’ top line of Vladimir Tarasenko, Aleksander Barkov, and Sam Reinhart. Despite being outattempted 57-26 and trailing 7-1 in high-danger chances, the trio has only conceded one goal.

Barkov, the 2024 Selke Trophy winner, has been a defensive force against the Rangers’ top line. “It’s a good line,” Zibanejad said. “He’s obviously a good centerman, too, who plays down low and he’s good defensively, too. It’s been a tight matchup. We might not have created as many looks as we’d want, but we’ve had some. New game [Tuesday], new opportunity to contribute offensively.”

The secondary unit of Panarin, Trocheck, and Lafreniere has been more effective. Trocheck leads the Rangers with four points in the series, while Lafreniere’s clutch performance in Game 3 has been vital. This line has logged the most five-on-five ice time at 33:52, outattempting opponents 46-27 and contributing to three Rangers goals while allowing only one.

Panarin, who led the NHL with four game-winning goals entering Monday night’s Edmonton-Dallas game, needs to step up if the Rangers hope to secure two more wins and advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Don’t miss a moment of the excitement! Head over to Black Bear Hoboken to watch the Rangers. Enjoy our fantastic drink specials. Gather your friends, cheer on the Rangers, and experience the thrill of the game in the best atmosphere in town. See you at Black Bear Hoboken! 🍻🏒

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