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NEW YORK -- Ryan Lomberg wasn't going to let a second chance slip.

The Florida Panthers forward had opened the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a fourth-line fixture. But after playing against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the first round, Lomberg missed nine games because of illness and the effectiveness of his replacements, forwards Steven Lorentz and Kyle Okposo.

It wasn't easy for a player that had travelled a long, hard and convoluted road and has become a fixture with the Panthers.

"Ryan's been here a long time, he's part of the fabric," Florida coach Paul Maurice said. "So it was possibly more personal for him."

It was frustrating Lomberg said, but the team always comes first.

"It was tough, especially this time of year, it was tough to watch," Lomberg said. "What made it easier is we were winning a lot of those games. Unfortunately, it's kind of been the MO of my career, in and out [of the lineup].

"So, I dealt with it like I usually do, which is stay positive and work as hard as I can. That way, whenever the time comes that coach puts me back in, I'm ready to go."

Lomberg has been ready to go in the Eastern Conference Final, returning to the fourth line and providing steady, noticeable, impactful minutes in each of the first two games against the New York Rangers after returning one game earlier, in the series clinching Game 6 against the Boston Bruins in the second round.

The best-of-7 Eastern Conference Final is tied at 1-1 and Game 3 is at Amerant Bank Arena on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC).

It seems a safe bet that the Florida fourth line, anchored by the speed and tenacity of Lomberg will continue to make an impact.

Maurice spoke glowingly of that unit, which also features forward Nick Cousins and center Kevin Stenlund, after a 3-1 win in Game 1, saying they were rock solid and technically proficient.

They were good again in Game 2, a 2-1 loss in overtime on Friday.

In each of those games at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers, with the last line change, dictated the matchup. It didn't matter.

"So [his line] didn't score, so it's not that, but the technical parts of [Lomberg's] game, the energy, is always there and the physicality is always there," Maurice said after Game 1. "Those guys were sharp and on pucks."

That's what that unit has to do to be successful, Cousins said.

"We have 'Steny' down the middle and he has a new nickname, 'Steady Steny.' That's what we started calling him during the playoffs," Cousins said.

"I just think when we are in the offensive zone, [we] hang onto pucks, wear the other teams 'D' down. Steny is good and reliable on faceoffs and takes care of other stuff that probably goes unnoticed. With Ryan's game, he obviously has a tremendous amount of speed and tenacity on the forecheck."

That's how Lomberg has approached his pro career, which started with the Calgary Flames when he was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017.

He knows using his speed and his fearlessness will keep him in the League, more than his scoring touch. The 29-year-old has never scored more than 12 goals in any of his four seasons with the Panthers, who signed him as a free agent in 2020.

He has earned ice time and cult-hero status in Florida by being first on the puck on the forecheck, banging bodies, often against players much bigger than his 5-foot-9, 184-pound frame. He blocks shots and plays responsibly defensively.

In Game 1, Lomberg played 7:51, had one shot on goal, three shot attempts, one blocked shot and a game-high seven hits.

"That might be the best game I've seen Lomberg play," Maurice said.

In Game 2, he was more noticeable. He played 10:29 and had five shots on goal and four hits, one of which knocked Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey out of the game with an upper-body injury. Vesey's status for Game 3 is unknown. Lomberg also ran over forward Mika Zibanejad in the first period.

He had Florida's first shot of the game, a power move that was foiled by Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin. In overtime, he again had Florida's first shot with a carbon-copy of that first-period move.

Those contributions don't go unnoticed on the bench or in the stands.

"Ryan is one of my favorite teammates I have ever played with," Cousins said. "Such a high-energy guy."