3 Keys FLA NYR Game 5

(1A) Panthers at (1M) Rangers

Eastern Conference Final, Game 5


Best-of-7 series tied 2-2

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have an opportunity on home ice to retake the lead against the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Final when they play Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

"It's a good spot for us," Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. "We split here, we split down there, we come back for a Game 5 in our building. I'd rather just try to keep it as I always do, just right on today and make sure we're ready to go.

"But definitely exciting. We're in a position where we know there's three games remaining and we're at MSG tonight in front of our fans and they've been incredible. They were incredible down in Florida. Certainly incredible in our building here. No place we'd rather be."

Each team has won a game at home and a game on the road in the series, with each of the past three games ending in overtime; New York won Games 2 and 3, Florida won Game 4.

A best-of-7 series in the round preceding the Stanley Cup Final has never featured four straight overtime games.

"You've got to embrace it," Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk said. "It's the conference finals. You knew it was most likely end up being even after four games. Each game is very tight. I would say that we've probably controlled three out of the four and then Game 2, they played really well. But I think we like the way our game is trending right now and, yeah, it's been very even."

The Rangers best and most complete game of the series was Game 2 at the Garden, when they won on center Barclay Goodrow's goal 14:01 into overtime. That's the only game of the four that New York outshot Florida (30-27) and had more shot attempts (78-75).

In Games 3 and 4 in Florida, the Panthers outshot the Rangers 77-46 and had a 197-87 advantage in total shot attempts.

But New York won Game 3, 5-4, on center Alex Wennberg's goal 5:35 into overtime. Florida won Game 4, 3-2, on forward Sam Reinhart's power-play goal at 1:12 of overtime.

"There's only four teams left and then two unbelievable teams that are going against each other," Panthers center Anton Lundell said, "and it's just you have to battle for every chance, every shift is an opportunity. But at the same time, it's a grind. But it's fun. That's what we're built for, that's what we're here to do. We just want to go out there and have fun and try to enjoy even if it's tight games."

When a Stanley Cup Playoffs best-of-7 series is tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 goes on to win the series 78.8 percent of the time (231-62).

Here are 3 keys to Game 5:

1. Limiting Florida's surges

The Panthers dominated play for long stretches in Games 3 and 4, attacking the Rangers with waves of pressure and high shot volume for periods at a time.

Florida had 41 shot attempts to New York's 11 in the third period of Game 3. It had 70 shot attempts to New York's 16 after the first period in Game 4.

The Rangers were better at limiting those pushes from the Panthers in their two home games in the series, stopping them earlier and turning it back on them. They also played on their toes and in attack mode in the first period of Game 4.

Pushing back harder and quicker will be a big part of their game plan Thursday.

"That's what we have to do," Laviolette said. "I thought we did a better job of that at home. I just think there's room for us to be better with our defense, our exits and getting into the offensive zone. Those are the things we'll look at and talk about."

2. Panthers popping on power play

Florida is doing what the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals couldn't do previously in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that's find holes in New York's aggressive and offensive-minded penalty kill to cash in on power-play goals.

The Panthers are 5-for-12 on the man-advantage in the past three games after going 0-for-3 in Game 1. They went 4-for-10 in their two home games, albeit with a short-handed goal allowed in Game 3.

The Rangers allowed four power-play goals on 38 times short-handed in the first two rounds.

Tkachuk described why Florida has been effective in this area.

"I think a big thing is you don't necessarily have to race to your position," Tkachuk said. "We've got five guys -- I've seen sometimes where [defenseman Brandon Montour] is ending netfront or in the slot. It really doesn't matter where you are on the ice. Don't worry about racing to your position. Just worry about moving the puck as quick as you can. That's what kind of what it is with us. There's some penalty kills that you play that are really passive where you can easily get in your set-up and move it around and feel good, but you've almost got to treat it like 5-on-5. Just move it quick and when you see an opening, take it to the net."

Goodrow takes center stage in Game 5 of ECF

3. Noise from Zibanejad, Kreider

Zero points.

That's what the Rangers have gotten from their top line in the series, which means nothing from center Mika Zibanejad and forward Chris Kreider, who combined for 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in the first two rounds.

Laviolette has rotated the right wing on that line in an attempt to find a spark. It was Jack Roslovic in Game 1, Filip Chytil in Games 2 and 3 and Roslovic again at the start of Game 4 before Kaapo Kakko got his turn on the line.

Chytil is expected to be back on their line in Game 5.

"For me it's just finding the right person in the mix to make that line a line that we see more in the offensive zone, more production, more zone time, more attempts, more chances," Laviolette said. "If there's something we can do, we'll make the switch."

None of it has worked so far; they've been hemmed in the defensive zone for long stretches, especially when going against Aleksander Barkov's line and the Panthers' top defense pair of Gustav Forsling and Aaron Ekblad. As a result, they haven't been able to generate anything during the rare times they have played in the offensive zone at 5-on-5.

It's hard to envision the Rangers winning this series without any contributions from Zibanejad and Kreider. They need to produce.

Panthers projected lineup

Carter Verhaeghe -- Aleksander Barkov -- Sam Reinhart

Matthew Tkachuk -- Sam Bennett -- Evan Rodrigues

Eetu Luostarinen -- Anton Lundell -- Vladimir Tarasenko

Steven Lorentz -- Kevin Stenlund -- Kyle Okposo

Gustav Forsling -- Aaron Ekblad

Niko Mikkola -- Brandon Montour

Oliver Ekman-Larsson -- Dmitry Kulikov

Sergei Bobrovsky

Anthony Stolarz

Scratched: Ryan Lomberg, Nick Cousins, 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

Jack Roslovic -- Alex Wennberg -- Kaapo Kakko

Will Cuylle -- Barclay Goodrow -- Matt Rempe

Ryan Lindgren -- Adam Fox

K'Andre Miller -- Braden Schneider

Erik Gustafsson -- Jacob Trouba

Igor Shesterkin

Jonathan Quick

Scratched: Zac Jones, Chad Ruhwedel, Jonny Brodzinski, Adam Edstrom, Blake Wheeler, Alex Belzile, Brett Berard, Anton Blidh, Ben Harpur, Dylan Garand, Jake Leschyshyn, Connor Mackey, Victor Mancini, Brennan Othmann, Tyler Pitlick, Matthew Robertson, Brandon Scanlin, Adam Sykora

Injured: Jimmy Vesey (upper body)

Status report

Verhaeghe was hit in the face by a puck during the Panthers morning skate Thursday, but coach Paul Maurice said he will play. “He tipped one off [Bobrovsky’s] head and he took it (in the mouth)," Maurice said. "He just took a couple stitches. He’s fine.” ... Chytil was a healthy scratch for a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4; Wheeler, a forward, is expected to be scratched. … Judging from the Rangers morning skate, Schneider will start the game on the second defense pair with Miller and Trouba will drop down to the third pair to play with Gustafsson; New York used those pairs in the first nine games of the playoffs before switching in Game 6 of the second round to having Trouba with Miller and Schneider with Gustafsson.

NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti contributed to this report