Anton Lundell clutch again as Panthers beat Rangers in Game 5, go up 3-2 in series

For the first two periods on Thursday, Anton Lundell and his line was barely able to gain any traction.

But there were no signs of frustration from the Florida Panthers’ 22-year-old center. In fact, the lack of production fueled him heading into the final frame of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers.

“We just decided after the second period started to just step up,” Lundell said. “We all wanted to step up, and I felt like it was important for our line to give momentum, give energy to the team and just try to do our best.”

Sure enough, Lundell once again found a way to come up in the big moment.

Lundell scored the go-ahead goal with 9:38 left in regulation, beating Igor Shesterkin with a strong wrist shot from the left circle while Vladimir Tarasenko drove to the net, to lead the Panthers to a 3-2 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

The Panthers now lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 and are one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup Finals for a second consecutive season.

Game 6 is on Saturday at Sunrise’s Amerant Bank Arena. A winner-take-all Game 7, if necessary, would be Monday back in New York.

And the Panthers can look to Lundell for once again providing a needed spark.

Lundell’s goal was his third of the postseason and his 11th overall point in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

Of those 11 points, seven have come on either game-tying, game-winning or go-ahead goals.

“I have absolutely no idea how good he can be,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said, “but we’re gonna find out.”

Lundell plays a defensively responsible two-way game, similar to Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov, who has served as a mentor to Lundell throughout Lundell’s first three NHL seasons.

“He’s stepped up before and as a young kid in this league, he’s had so many big goals. They just keep coming. He’s a great kid. It’s a lot of fun to watch him play.”

Defenseman Gustav Forsling also scored for Florida, taking a feed from Sam Bennett in the slot and beating Shesterkin high with a backhanded shot 8:21 into the second period.

Bennett gave Florida a two-goal lead on an empty-netter 1:52 left in regulation.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky did the rest, stopping 25 of 27 shots that came his way, with his lone blemish being a Chris Kreider shorthanded goal on a breakaway 2:04 into the second period to open scoring and an Alexis Lafraniere goal with the Rangers at 6-on-5 with 49.7 seconds left.

This and that

The Panthers blocked 20 Rangers shot attempts on Thursday, with Aaron Ekblad leading the way with five.

Florida’s penalty kill was a perfect 3 for 3 on Thursday and is now 14 for 15 so far in the series against the Rangers.

Forsling’s goal was the Panthers’ 10th game-tying goal of the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs, which is the most among all teams.

The win Thursday was Bobrovsky’s 40th career playoff win. He is one of four active goaltenders to have 40 career playoff wins, joining Marc-Andre Fleury (92), Andrei Vasilevskiy (66) and Jonathan Quick (49).