(1A) Panthers at (1M) Rangers

Eastern Conference Final, Game 2


Florida leads best-of-7 series 1-0

NEW YORK -- The Florida Panthers have won seven straight games in the conference final round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 1996. 

They'll go for No. 8 and a road sweep of the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers when they play Game 2 at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

The Panthers won Game 1, 3-0, on Wednesday behind 24 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky.

They also won Games 1 and 2 on the road last year against the Carolina Hurricanes in the conference final, leading to a four-game sweep, and Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in 1996. 

"The team that loses Game 1 has an advantage in Game 2," Florida coach Paul Maurice said. "The mentality for us is take that deep breath, it's one game and it was 1-0 with three minutes to go. So this is going to be very tight, probably the whole series. It's going to be a grinder. It'll be fast at times and heavy along the boards at times. They have the emotional advantage to me. We have to find a different way to get ours."

New York is down in a series for the first time this postseason after sweeping the Washington Capitals in the first round and winning the first three games against the Hurricanes in the second round before needing six games to win the series.

"We've got to score," Rangers forward Filip Chytil said. "They have a great team overall. They have a good goalie. But we just need to put pucks to the net and when we get one in I think we're going to breathe easier. We have to lift up our game from last time."

The Rangers have lost two straight at home, something that did not happen during the regular season, when they were 30-11-0 at the Garden.

Florida is 5-1 on the road this postseason.

Teams have won the first two games of a best-of-7 series on the road 109 times, with 87 of them winning the series (79.8 percent). When a series is tied after two games, the team that opens on the road has won the series 44.3 percent of the time (160 of 361).

Here are 3 keys to Game 2:

1. Rangers working smarter, executing better

New York should should take a page out of Florida's playbook and look to play simple, straight-ahead, heavy and hard hockey in Game 2.

That doesn't mean the Rangers have to break away from who they are, a fast and skilled team, but they say they're at their best when they're physical and they know the benefits of forechecking when pucks go in deep and opposing defensemen are forced to turn and give chase.

New York didn't have enough of that in Game 1; if it can do more of the workmanlike things, there's a better chance its speed and skill can become a factor.

"When I say execution it's in every area of the game," Rangers center Vincent Trocheck said. "There were times we could have got the puck deep and we didn't, fed their transition. There were times we could have made an easy play on a breakout and we didn't, turned the puck over and gave them a chance. The power play needs to be better. It's a lot of areas."

NHL Tonight on Game Two of Rangers vs. Panthers

2. Panthers' push on the power play

Florida was 0-for-3 with three shots on goal with the man-advantage in Game 1. The good news is its penalty kill held New York to 0-for-2 with four shots on goal, but at times, the Rangers looked dangerous on the power play. The Panthers never really did.

"A lot of things we can do better," Florida captain Aleksander Barkov said. "Obviously, we want to get on the same page, we want to work harder. Of course, we wanted to work harder, but I think we can execute better and make plays. We kept the puck on the boards a little too much so they can pressure us. Obviously, they have a really good penalty kill and they pressure really hard. We have to find ways to be able to make plays."

3. Some 'O' from the 'D'

That Adam Fox has no points in five games is startling considering the Rangers defenseman never went more than two games without a point during the regular season.

That the Rangers have gotten only two goals from defensemen in the playoffs -- each short-handed, by K'Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba -- is also startling. They got 44 goals from defensemen during the regular season, tied for seventh in the NHL.

They need more of a shot mentality in the offensive zone in Game 2, and generating looks from up top could be the key to unlocking some offense.

"Some are expected more than others, myself included, to produce a bit more offense," Fox said. "Our main goal as a 'D' corps is to defend first, especially against high-octane teams and not really force that offense, but getting up in the rush, joining late and delivering pucks from the blue line to get bounces, definitely we want to jump when the opportunity presents itself."

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 -- Filip Chytil

Artemi Panarin -- Vincent Trocheck -- Alexis Lafreniere

Will Cuylle -- Alex Wennberg -- Jack Roslovic

Jimmy Vesey -- Barclay Goodrow -- Matt Rempe

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, Kaapo Kakko, Blake Wheeler

Injured: None

Status report

Verhaeghe didn't take part in the Panthers morning skate Friday, but is expected to play. … It's unclear if Kakko, a forward, or Rempe will be in the Rangers lineup. New York did not conduct line rushes during its morning skate and coach Peter Laviolette is not answering questions about the lineup during the playoffs. However, Kakko was one of eight forwards wearing a blue jersey at the morning skate, including every forward in the top six group and Brodzinski. Rempe was one of eight in a white jersey, but that group also included forwards Edstrom and Wheeler, each expected to be scratched, leaving Rempe as a likely option for a bottom-six role. Kakko has played in all 11 of New York's playoff games. Rempe has been a healthy scratch for two straight and four of the past five. It's likely the Rangers will have 13 forwards skating in pregame warmups, which is when they will show their line rushes. … Chytil was in a blue jersey at the morning skate, an indication he will play on a line with Zibanejad and Kreider. Chytil played on the third line with Wennberg and Kakko in Game 1. … Roslovic, who was in a white jersey, had been skating on the top line, but could drop down to a bottom-six role, potentially taking Kakko's spot as the right wing on the third line. … If Kakko is out, Cuylle likely will likely move up from the fourth line to play left wing on the third line, Vesey would move from right to left on the fourth line and Rempe would slot in on the fourth line.