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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    Reinhart scores in OT, Panthers beat Rangers 3-2 in OT of Game 4 of East final

    Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) scores against New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the second period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

    Sunrise, Fla. — Sam Reinhart scored a power-play goal 1:12 into overtime, and the Florida Panthers topped the New York Rangers 3-2 to even the Eastern Conference Final at two games apiece.

    It was the third straight OT game in the series — and the first time Florida got a win in those matchups.

    Blake Wheeler, playing his first game for the Rangers since mid-February, was called for hooking Aleksander Barkov 59 seconds into the extra session. And it didn't take long for the Panthers to cash in, with Barkov setting up Reinhart in front.

    Sam Bennett and Carter Verhaeghe also scored for Florida, which got 21 saves — and an assist — from Sergei Bobrovsky.

    Vincent Trocheck and Alexis Lafrenière scored for the Rangers, and Igor Shesterkin stopped 37 shots.

    Game 5 is Thursday in New York, where the teams split the opening two matchups in this series. Game 6 will be Saturday in Sunrise, and the Prince of Wales Trophy — awarded to the East champs — will be in attendance that night.

    Bennett got Florida on the board midway through the second period, on a second effort. His first shot got past Shesterkin, but not into the net — and Bennett, who followed the shot, managed to get to the puck before anyone else. He knocked it off the back of the goalie's skate and barely across the goal line.

    And 3 1/2 minutes later, Florida had the lead on a pinball goal by Verhaeghe.

    Matthew Tkachuk centered the puck from the right corner, and it deflected off Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren's stick. Airborne, it bounced off Shesterkin, then off Lindgren's upper body — and Verhaeghe, with more of a baseball swing than anything else, batted it out of the air for a 2-1 Florida edge.

    Including playoffs, over the last two seasons, Florida entered Tuesday with an NHL-best record of 81-2-6 in games where it led after 40 minutes.

    Lafrenière didn't care. A neat spin move from Adam Fox got him the puck on the left side of the crease and he tapped it home with 16:32 left for his third goal in the last two games.

    The rest of regulation was wild. Back and forth, play more often resembling a 3-on-3 regular season overtime than anything else, going end to end — Bobrovsky making some point-blank stops, Shesterkin once again getting peppered just as he was late in Game 3 to no Florida avail.

    And for the third straight game, to OT they went.

    Trocheck opened the scoring with a power-play tally, on a play where he won a faceoff, moved into the high slot, waited for a centering pass from Artemi Panarin and ripped a perfect shot — an inch or two past the right side of Bobrovsky's head, kissing it off the bottom of the crossbar and into the goal.

    So, the crossbar giveth on that Rangers power play. It taketh away on the next one, when the game of inches went the Panthers' way.

    New York had Florida reeling later in the first period, when Brandon Montour was in the box for cross-checking. Mika Zibanejad was alone on the left side of the crease and shot toward a ton of open net, but the puck hit Bobrovsky's shoulder, ricocheted up to the crossbar — and this time, bounced back into the crease, just off the goal line as the Panthers remained down only 1-0.

    Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) attempts a shot at New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the second period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe, left, attempts a shot at New York Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren, center, and goaltender Igor Shesterkin, right, during the second period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    New York Rangers center Vincent Trocheck (16) is congratulated by teammates after he scored during the first period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates during the second period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs against the New York Rangers, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk, left, attempts to tip in a shot against New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the first period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    New York Rangers defenseman K'Andre Miller (79) and Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart (13) tangle during the first period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    Florida Panthers center Eetu Luostarinen (27) and New York Rangers defenseman K'Andre Miller (79) battle for the puck during the second period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    New York Rangers defenseman K'Andre Miller (79) passes past Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) during the first period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    New York Rangers center Vincent Trocheck, right foreground, is congratulated by teammates after he scored during the first period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin blocks a shot during the first period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) attempts a shot at New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the first period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    Players battle for the puck during the first period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs between the Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    New York Rangers center Vincent Trocheck celebrates after scoring during the first period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

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