(1M) Rangers at (1A) Panthers

Eastern Conference Final, Game 4


New York leads best-of 7 series 2-1

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will try to even the Eastern Conference Final in Game 4 against the New York Rangers at Amerant Bank Arena on Tuesday.

The Rangers hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series after consecutive overtime wins, including a 5-4 victory in Game 3 here on Sunday. Florida will need to respond after losing three of its past four home games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs or head back to New York for Game 5 on Thursday one loss away from elimination.

“It’s a big game. It’s crucial,” Panthers center Sam Bennett said. “We know how important this game is. We’re going to be prepared for it, but I think in the playoffs every game feels like a must-win game. So we’re just going to treat it the same as we’ve been treating all the other games, but it’s definitely a big one for us.”

The Rangers won Game 3 despite being outshot 37-23 and the Panthers having a 108-43 advantage in shot attempts. Florida outshot New York 13-4 in the third period and erased a 4-2 deficit before New York rebounded to win on center Alex Wennberg’s deflection goal at 5:35 of overtime.

The Rangers believe they can play better and will probably need to in anticipation of the Panthers pushing back hard to try to tie the series.

“Looking at our game, yeah, there's levels of our game that we want to reach,” New York center Mika Zibanejad said. “We've played pretty good hockey, but maybe not to our best. But at the same time, we're playing against a pretty good team. We’re up 4-2 and obviously they come with their push, and they get a little bit of momentum. But I think that just shows the character that we have in our group and then obviously with [goalie Igor Shesterkin] giving us a chance to be able to win in overtime.”

The Rangers are 15-1 in their history when they take a 3-1 lead in a best-of-7 playoffs series with the only loss coming in the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals. The Panthers are 1-3 in their history when facing a 3-1 series deficit, with the victory coming against the Boston Bruins in the first round last season.

Here are 3 keys for Game 4:

1. Puck possession

Florida used its forecheck to dominate puck possession in Game 3, particularly in the third period, when it had a 41-11 advantage in shot attempts, and wants to do the more of the same Tuesday. New York was able to overcome spending long stretches in its end by being opportunistic on its counterattack offense, but being more than doubled in shot attempts is usually not a blueprint for success.

“If you look at the first game and second game and look at the details of the numbers, we’re doing a lot of things we want to do,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “For me it has got to do with attacking ice, attacking them. Sometimes when you’re on your heels and you’re not attacking, you’re playing defense and you’re not making plays with the puck coming out of the defensive zone or coming through the neutral zone. You’re feeding it to them.

“I thought that there was a lot of opportunity in the first and second game where we were doing that. It’s just getting back to that for me, getting back to that mindset of attacking ice, attacking them, making the next play.”

2. Offensive-zone execution

Though the Panthers outshot the Rangers by a wide margin and had an even bigger margin in shot attempts, they thought they could have done a better job taking advantage of their sustained offensive zone pressure, beginning with getting more pucks to the net. Florida had 42 of its 108 shot attempts blocked and 29 others missed the net.

New York had a 10-8 advantage in high-danger shots on goal, according to NHL EDGE Puck and Player Tracking. So getting to those high-danger areas in front of Shesterkin to create screens and get deflections and rebounds will be a focus for the Panthers.

“Obviously, you know what kind of goalie he is, but with good goalies, you have to create traffic, make their life harder and just get pucks to the net,” Panthers forward Vladimir Tarasenko said. “Sometimes a clean shot doesn’t go in. That’s why you need to have people in front of him to create that first and second layer to make it harder.”

3. Powering up

The Rangers have won the past two games without winning the special teams battle, but know they’ll probably need to improve on the power play to have more success in this series. After going 10-for-25 (40 percent) on the man-advantage through its first six playoff games, New York is 1-for-18 in its past seven games, including 0-for-8 in the three games against Florida.

The Panthers are 3-for-11 (27.3 percent) on the power play in the series, and even though they gave up a pivotal short-handed goal to center Barclay Goodrow in the second period of Game 3, they've been the better team on special teams in the series. Florida's penalty kill is 26-for-27 (96.3 percent) over its past 10 games and has frustrated New York with its pressuring approach.

“If we knew the answer we would work on it already,” Rangers forward Vincent Trocheck said. “We've just got to look at everything and see if we can find any holes.”

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 -- Jacob Trouba

Erik Gustafsson -- Braden Schneider

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)

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

Status report

The Rangers did not hold a morning skate and made no indications of changing their lineup from Game 3, but that won’t be revealed until warmups. … Vesey, a forward, remains week to week after being injured on a hit from Lomberg in Game 2 and missing Game 3. … Panthers coach Paul Maurice shuffled his top three lines during Game 3 and plans to keep that going to begin Game 4; Bennett moved back to center the second line with Lundell moving to the third. … Florida appeared to make a change to the fourth line during their morning skate, bringing Lorentz and Okposo in to replace Lomberg and Cousins; Lorentz and Okposo haven’t played since Game 5 of the second round against the Boston Bruins. independent correspondent George Richards contributed to this report