3 Keys FLA-NYR Game 1

(1A) Panthers at (1M) Rangers

Eastern Conference Final, Game 1


NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers will try to win their third straight Game 1 at home in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they open the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.

The Rangers, who won the Presidents' Trophy to secure home-ice advantage throughout the postseason, advanced to the conference final by sweeping the Washington Capitals in the first round and defeating the Carolina Hurricanes in six games in the second round.

"That's why the regular season is so important, you play for that home ice," Rangers defenseman Adam Fox said. "Not only from a strategic last change and that aspect of it, but when a building is behind you, you feel that energy. It seems to play a big factor."

The Panthers, who finished first in the Atlantic Division, are in the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight year, getting here by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the first round and the Boston Bruins in six games in the second round.

Florida advanced to the Stanley Cup Final last season and lost in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights.

This is the first time since 1997 and only the second time the Rangers and Panthers are facing each other in the playoffs.

"At some point the joy takes over the pressure, right?" Florida coach Paul Maurice said. "There's three other teams left in the National Hockey League and you want something, you want to feel it, because if you don't have that then you're just here, you're just lightning in a bottle, same old story, we're just going out playing our game.

"For some players in your room they'll process it that way and that's fine, but other players won't. They'll carry it. We're right there. You want to bring a little bit of that pressure into this game tonight. Make sure you feel it because the chance is real. And also you've got to be able to enjoy it this or there's no point. So let's have some fun."

The winner of Game 1 in a best-of-7 series during the round before the Stanley Cup Final has gone on to win the series 68 percent of the time (112-53).

Here are 3 keys to Game 1:

1. Shooting against Shesterkin

The Rangers allowed 37.3 shots on goal per game in the second round against the Hurricanes and goalie Igor Shesterkin still played to a 2.80 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in the series.

He was that good, and in the end, the discrepancy in goaltending was the reason the New York won the series in six games. Carolina goalies Frederik Andersen and Pyotr Kochetkov combined for an .878 save percentage.

The Panthers need to follow the same model and pepper Shesterkin with shots and hope their goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, is up to the task on the other end to at least play even.

Florida is averaging 33.0 shots on goal per game during the playoffs, second behind the Hurricanes (35.7).

"Well, sometimes quantity turns into quality, so there is a value to that," Maurice said. "We will not go into a game thinking, 'Hey, we will be able to put up six, so don’t worry, we can give up five.' That's not who we are anyways."

2. Get physical, but to a point

The Rangers know part of the Panthers' game is to play physical. They feel they're capable of playing that game, giving as much as they get in the trenches. But New York can't do it just to prove it can match Florida in a heavy game.

"I think you just have to be that much more simple," Rangers defenseman Braden Schneider said. "When you know a team is coming as hard as that you've got to be ready, you've got to be ready to match that and bring it right back to them. And you have to make sure you're playing straightforward, simple hockey, especially early.

"They play aggressive, they play physical, they play a playoff game and that's what they've built their team around. We've got to be ready to match it, we've got to be ready to punch back and we've got to be ready to take it to them.

Panthers take on Rangers in Eastern Conference Final

3. Zip it around on the power play

Each team is aggressive on the penalty kill, but New York hunts for offense at the same time. The Rangers have four short-handed goals during the playoffs, twice as many as any other team. They're even on the penalty kill, four goals against and four goals for. They're killing at 89.5 percent.

"They're going to cheat for offense or come up and pressure as much as they can for offense, and they're a good team to do that," Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour said. "So we've got to be ready to move the puck quick, make hard plays and be on it every power play we get."

Florida doesn't hunt for offense the way New York does, but it also has a pressure penalty kill; the Panthers have two short-handed goals during the postseason.

The Rangers exploited the Hurricanes' pressure PK in the second round with fast passes and a shot mentality. When they struggled on the power play it was because they couldn't get clean breakouts against Carolina's up-ice pressure.

Panthers projected lineup

Vladimir Tarasenko -- Aleksander Barkov -- Sam Reinhart

Carter Verhaeghe -- Anton Lundell -- Matthew Tkachuk

Eetu Luostarinen -- Sam Bennett -- Evan Rodrigues

Ryan Lomberg -- Kevin Stenlund -- Nick Cousins

Gustav Forsling -- Aaron Ekblad

Niko Mikkola -- Brandon Montour

Oliver Ekman-Larsson -- Dmitry Kulikov

Sergei Bobrovsky

Anthony Stolarz

Scratched: Steven Lorentz, Kyle Okposo, Tobias Bjornfot, Uvis Balinskis, Josh Mahura, Jonah Gadjovich, Spencer Knight, Rasmus Asplund, Mike Benning, Magnus Hellberg, Matt Kiersted, William Lockwood, Mackie Samoskevich, Justin Sourdif

Injured: None

Rangers projected lineup

Chris Kreider -- Mika Zibanejad -- Jack Roslovic

Artemi Panarin -- Vincent Trocheck -- Alexis Lafreniere

Filip Chytil -- Alex Wennberg -- Kaapo Kakko

Will Cuylle -- Barclay Goodrow -- Jimmy Vesey

Ryan Lindgren -- Adam Fox

K'Andre Miller -- Jacob Trouba

Erik Gustafsson -- Braden Schneider

Igor Shesterkin

Jonathan Quick

Scratched: Zac Jones, Chad Ruhwedel, Jonny Brodzinski, Adam Edstrom, Matt Rempe, Blake Wheeler

Injured: None

Status report

Bennett will play despite not being on the ice for the Panthers morning skate Wednesday. ... Maurice said everyone who is expected to be in the lineup is good to go. … Lindgren is expected to play even though he didn't take part in the Rangers' optional practice Sunday or full practices Monday and Tuesday because of maintenance days. … Chytil is expected to play after missing the final three games of the second-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes; the forward missed Game 4 because of an illness and did not play in Games 5 or 6 for an undisclosed reason.