Rangers on verge of elimination after 3-2 loss to Panthers in Game 5

The Rangers lost, 3-2, to the Florida Panthers Thursday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, meaning the Blueshirts are one loss from elimination.

The Panthers, who got goals from Gustav Forsling, Anton Lundell and Sam Bennett in front of a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden, can close out the best-of-seven series when it shifts to Sunrise, Fla. for Game 6 on Saturday night.

It’s only the second time in the entire playoffs the Rangers have trailed in a series. The other was when they dropped Game 1 to Florida.

Here are the takeaways...

-The Panthers were hurtling around the ice early in the third period, dominating and creating chances until they took a penalty that blunted their momentum. But it was only temporary. They killed the penalty and went on the hunt again and scored with 9:38 remaining off a 3-on-2 rush. Lundell skated down the left side and fired the puck in for a 2-1 Florida lead. It was his first goal of the series. Earlier in the period, Lundell had tried to sneak a shot between his legs past Igor Shesterkin -- Eetu Luostarinen also tried the same thing and Shesterkin stopped him, too.

Shesterkin finished with 34 saves.

-With 1:52 left in the third, Bennett scored an empty-net goal after the Rangers had pulled Shesterkin for an extra attacker. The Rangers answered with 49.7 seconds left when they scored at 6-on-5 on a tip-in by Alexis Lafrenière. Lafrenière has goals in three consecutive games in the series and eight goals overall in the playoffs.

-The Rangers took a 1-0 lead early in the second period when they scored their sixth shorthanded goal of the playoffs, which matched their high for a single postseason, set in 1978-79. Chris Kreider started the play with a takeaway that sprung him and Mika Zibanejad on a breakaway. Kreider slipped ahead of Florida’s Sam Reinhart and Zibanejad fed him the puck and Kreider skated in and backhanded the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky -- who finished with 25 saves.

Kreider leaped at the glass behind the net, howling in celebration as his teammates crowded around. It was Kreider’s eighth goal of the playoffs, but his first point in this series. Zibanejad’s assist was also his first point of the series. Both droughts were looming as a Blueshirt concern in this series.

-But the Rangers lead only lasted until there was 11:39 left in the second. Florida tied the score on Forsling’s goal, his second of the series, which happened in large part because of a slick no-look pass from Bennett. Bennett’s feed went between two Rangers, putting Forsling alone in front of Shesterkin, who could not stop Forsling’s backhand and the score was tied at 1. The Panthers outshot the Rangers, 13-6, in the second.

-The first period ended scoreless, but both teams had chances. Bobrovsky stopped Filip Chytil on a backhand in front – set up by a nice pass from Zibanejad – though the rebound was dangerous, nearly going in off a Panther. Shesterkin stopped Kevin Stenlund late in the period when Stenlund had the puck in front. Shesterkin laid back on the loose puck to stop the play and fans chanted his name. With about 2:20 left, Vincent Trocheck had a partial breakaway, but Bobrovsky made a save. The Rangers outshot Florida in the first, 11-8, and each team killed a penalty.

-According to the NHL, when a best-of-seven series is tied at two games apiece, the winner of Game 5 goes on to take the series 78.8 percent of the time.

-Chytil was back on the ice Thursday night after being scratched from Game 4. He started the game on the top line with Zibanejad and Kreider. To make room for Chytil, winger Blake Wheeler was scratched.

MVP: Anton Lundell

Lundell's third-period goal put the Panthers ahead for good.


What's next

The Rangers and Panthers will return to Florida for Game 6. Puck is scheduled to drop at 8 p.m. on Saturday night in a win-or-go-home game for the Blueshirts.