Panthers Snap The Rangers OT Win Streak & We Got Ourselves A Best-Of-Three

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Should the Rangers have won this game? No. Could they have? Yes. Did they? No.

Play with fire, you're eventually gonna get burned. The Blueshirts got away with getting absolutely pummeled to steal Game 3 but it was blatantly obvious that game script isn't gonna end positively most of the time. They needed to be better...and they were for the first 20 minutes tonight. They outplayed the home squad in every metric and were mere inches from a 2-0 lead on a Zibanejad finishing try that rang the crossbar. Still, it was 1-0 and more importantly everything was clicking. 5x5 was great. The PP finally got on the board and were zipping it around like we've been used to seeing. Shesterkin looked razor sharp. The contest was far from over but at least it looked like the Rangers were responding with a much better fight.

Well the final 40 was another dose of domination from the Panthers. 68-17 shot attempts. 35-8 scoring chances. 15-2 high-danger. They were stronger, smarter, more aggressive and put Shesterkin to the ultimate test. While the pair of goals the Cats buried to take the lead into the second intermission were "unconventional", they earned every ounce of luck it took to finish those plays. They've been exceptional all series at scoring the greasy goal, which is seemingly the only way a puck is gonna get past Igor. Whether it's off an opponent's skate, off a glove, tucked in under a goalie's skate blade from behind the net or batted mid-air off a rebound that bounced off a helmet...that's been the majority of Florida's offense. That's not a slam either. It's impressive. It's the definition of playoff hockey.

Still, the Rangers managed to push this tilt to a third straight overtime which was a feat in itself. As is the Blueshirts way, they don't need a ton of chances to score and they managed to knot the game at 2 on what felt like their only one of the third. Fox did what we've been waiting for Fox to do these playoffs - he created a play out of nothing with a spin move to open some ice before throwing a backhand at Lafreniere who tapped it in from the far post. From there it was once again the Shesterkin Show before the horn sounded with a tie score.

They didn't deserve the W, but all it would've taken was one play. One. And when you need one play you look to your top guns, regardless of how quiet they might've been so far this series. Mika Zibanejad maybe? That's who I was looking for. I'm a big Zibanejad guy. Just patiently waiting for 93 to show up and throw his name into the pile of ECF contributors. Instead, Zib throws an absolutely terrible pass during his first OT shift to put Wheeler in an impossible spot. I mean ZERO awareness. High in the o-zone, defense changing, nobody back. And he's facing what's behind him. He sees there's no one there. Still says "fuck it", pass goes the other way and what probably should've been a penalty shot still ended in the OTGWPPG.


Just a fucking brutal, inexplicable play that even the biggest of Zibanejad apologists (me) can't defend. It's one thing to be a passenger all series. It's another thing to make such a fundamental mistake to hand the Panthers Game 4 on a silver platter. All eyes are gonna be on 93 & 20 to make sure the Rangers respond on home ice. We've seen how dominant these Cats can be in their barn. The Blueshirts did what they needed to do. They stole one, but it's fair to be highly concerned if New York heads back to Florida down 3-2. Handle business at MSG and we're playing for the Cup, Turn a trip to Florida into a must-win and...well...we have a problem.