Panthers beat Rangers 3-2 in Game 5 to move within win of Stanley Cup Final return


Anton Lundell broke a tie on a deflected shot with 9:38 left and the Florida Panthers moved within a victory of returning to the Stanley Cup Final, beating the New York Rangers 3-2 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Gustav Forsling and Sam Bennett also scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 25 saves to help the Panthers - who lost to Vegas last year in the championship series - win their second straight in the best-of-series series after losing Games 2 and 3 in overtime.

Chris Kreider and Alexis Lafreniere scored for the Rangers, and Igor Shesterkin made 34 saves in another magnificent effort. The Presidents’ Trophy winners need to win two straight to return to the final for the first time since 2014. Mike Zibanejad had two assists.

The Panthers can end the series Saturday in Florida. If a seventh game is necessary, it will be at Madison Square Garden, where the Panthers have won twice this series.

The go-ahead goal came after the Rangers lost the puck in the Florida end. Eetu Luostarien got the puck, found Lundell at the Rangers' blue line. His shot from the right circle beat Shesterkin, although it may have hit off the stick of New York defenseman Braden Schneider.

Bennett added an empty-net goal with 1:52 left and it proved necessary when Lafreniere scored with 50 seconds to play. The Rangers never got another shot.

Kreider and Zibanejad, who were scoreless in the first four games of the series, combined to give New York the lead with a short-handed goal at 2:04 of the second period.

Kreider broke up a Florida play at the blue line, nudged the puck to Zibanejad and then took a return pass entering the offensive zone and beat Bobrovsky with nifty backhand move, evoking a roar that seemed to have Madison Square Garden shaking.

It was Kreider eighth goal of the playoffs and the Rangers’ sixth short-handed, tying the team postseason record set in 1978-79. New York went on to the Stanley Cup Final, losing to Montreal in five games.

Forsling tied it a little more than six minutes later, taking a perfect pass from Bennett and beating Shesterkin with a backhander that the goalie deflected but not enough to keep it out of the net. It was the defenseman's fourth goal and 11th point of the playoffs.

Both teams had great chances in the scoreless first period with Bobrovsky stopping Filip Chytil and Vincent Trocheck in close, and Shesterkin turning aside Kevin Stenlund and getting a little help from a post on Bennett's backhander from point-blank range.