Recap: Costly OT Error Costs Rangers Game 4, Series Tied 2-2

This is becoming such a weird series. After one of their better periods of the playoffs, the Rangers allowed the Panthers to gain the lead in the second but tied things back up in the third. A third night in a row of overtime hockey would lead to the Rangers demise courtesy of a mindless turnover from Mika Zibanejad. Outside of that opening period, it was much of the same concerns regarding how this team has matched up with the Panthers, let’s take it from the top. 

1st Period:

Wheeler returning to the lineup very well may have been the jolt this Rangers team needed seeing as they would have one of, if not their best period of the entire series up to this point. Right from the initial puck drop the Rangers had some pep in their step and looked to be on a mission to distance themselves from the team they appeared to be in the third of Game 3. Vincent Trocheck had a point blank chance for one of the Rangers first high danger chances off a nice feed from Artemiy Panarin along the boards that Sergei Bobrovski had to turn away to keep the game scoreless. 

In addition to the Rangers hot start, things were getting quite chippy after the whistles. Matthew Tkachuk started an eventful scrum in going after Jacob Trouba which was apparently fine but one of the following shifts, Erik Gustafsson went after Eetu Luostarainen for poking at Igor Shesterkin which was where the officials decided the line was crossed. This sent Florida to the first power play of the game which required a fantastic kill from the Rangers, consisting of four saves, a couple of blocks and other big plays to clear the zone. 

The Rangers didn’t have to wait too long for a “makeup call” but it was certainly a valid one. Anton Lundell caught Will Cuylle up high with the stick while chasing an icing call which sent them to their first man advantage of the night. The Rangers had a couple of looks after finally getting situated but it was looking like the slump was going to continue. Power play two took the ice over a minute in but with under thirty seconds left, a Bobrovski frozen puck gave the Rangers another offensive zone draw. 

Peter Laviolette could have easily opted to go with a normal line with the power play coming to an end but instead, sent the top power play unit back out there. A nice feed from Panarin found Vincent Trocheck in the slot who sent a rocket of a slap shot top shelf to make it a 1-0 game. 

With under four minutes to go, Trocheck took a cross check from behind from Brandon Montour to send the Rangers back to the power play. While they wouldn’t score, it was arguably their best looking power play of the series. Mika Zibanejad nearly made it a 2-0 game after ringing a shot off the crossbar but no dice. 

Twenty minutes in the books, the Rangers had the slight advantage in shots on goal 12-11 but led 4-1 in high danger chances. The Panthers were out-hitting the Rangers and edging them out in the face-off dots but the Rangers conversion on the power play to snap their cold streak would be the difference maker in what was overall a great opening period. Carrying that momentum would prove to be the biggest challenge. 

2nd Period:

The Rangers kept up the intensity to start the second but Igor Shesterkin was kept busy with a couple of big chances right out the gate. There wasn’t much standing out for the Rangers early in the period but the fourth line did have a great shift that really seemed to wear on the opposing Panthers line. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be long before the Rangers were back to the penalty kill. Ryan Lindgren was called for holding following a lengthy puck battle behind the Rangers net.

It was another brilliant effort from the Rangers penalty killers and while it was technically a successful kill, it still ended up costing the Rangers. A shot from Sam Bennett snuck through Shesterkin and while it initially looked like K’Andre Miller saved a goal with a strong defensive effort, Bennett banked it back into harm's way which was enough for the puck to trickle in, 1-1 game. 

About four minutes later, Barclay Goodrow sent the puck over the glass to earn the Rangers a delay of game penalty that didn’t do them any favors. While this is a strong team on the penalty kill, it’s never an easy task when one of your best is in the box and that’s what they had here with Goodrow in the box. Just over a minute into the man advantage, an unfortunate bounce in front redirected off Carter Verhaeghe, who had some of Florida’s best chances throughout the period, into the back of the net. 

The Rangers had a great start in this one but none of that matters if you sit back and let your opponent waltz back into things. They needed to turn it back up and regain control of this game but Florida kept pressing which only amplified their presence in the Rangers end of the ice. With five and a half to go, Chris Kreider was tripped up down the middle of Florida’s zone, putting the Rangers back to the man advantage. The top power play unit was a little shakier than they were in the first but Alexis Lafrenière came close, ringing the post after pulling off a nice move to create the shot. 

End of two, shots were 26-18 in favor of the Panthers as Shesterkin was totally keeping the Rangers in this thing. He was getting some help as the Rangers blocked fifteen shots but the high danger chances were a landslide, 7-0 in favor of Florida. Once again, the Rangers needed to flip the script and come up with a big answer in the third. 

3rd Period:

A little sloppy to start the period but after a couple of rotations, the Rangers were finding their stride. Another solid shift from the fourth line forced Florida to ice the puck. This brought the Rangers second line to the ice which prompted them to tie the game back up. An outstanding spin-a-rama move from Adam Fox found Lafrenière backdoor who was able to redirect it to the back of the net mid air, 2-2 game. 

The goal was a huge moment for the Rangers but it wouldn’t turn the tide of things enough to keep Florida out of their end of the ice. As has become the story of the series, the Rangers really struggled when it came to defending the Panthers and getting their transition game going the other way. As a result, the majority of the final period regulation was spent in the Rangers end of the ice. 

Couple notes across the third; Kaapo Kakko swapped with Jack Roslovic on the right side of the Zibanejad/Kreider line. Roslovic has some moments but at this point, especially against a team the Rangers struggle with defensively, Kakko on that top line makes more sense. On the flipside, Ryan Lindgren took a big hit that left him in some serious discomfort. He had to take a breather in the Rangers locker room but in typical Lindgren fashion, he was right back out there shortly after. 

Quite the additional scare with six and a half to go as Shesterkin again had to come up with a massive save, extending the pad to shut down Kyle Okposo twice. That left him without a stick but a huge blocked shot from Goodrow deflected the puck out of play to get the whistle. The Rangers were going a long stretch without a shot on goal, only registering five across the third period with most of them coming in the final couple of minutes. Matt Rempe of all people, was the one to break that streak as he helped the Rangers clear the zone with about three minutes to go where he managed to get a sneaky shot off the pad of Bobrovsky. 

Another night, another overtime. Would the Rangers pull it off or would their luck run out? 



It would be a shorty but certainly not a goody as the Rangers would drop Game 4 just 72 seconds in. A truly abysmal pass attempt from Mika Zibanejad sent Florida the other way with the puck. Blake Wheeler had no choice but to hook Aleksander Barkov on what was otherwise going to be as good a breakaway chance as you can ask for in overtime. With the Rangers short handed, Barkov fed Sam Reinhart with a quick pass and a quick shot put an end to the night. 

You can argue whether or not Wheeler should have been out there in the first place. You can argue the Rangers made their own bed with how badly they let Florida dominate them in the second half of the game. However one thing is for sure and it’s that this team needs more from their star players. Mika Zibanejad and Artemiy Panarin have been pretty close to non factors this entire series and it’s truly becoming an issue. There’s only so much Igor Shesterkin can do and the same can be said for Barclay Goodrow and Alexis Lafrenière.

 On the bright side, this was probably Adam Fox’s best, most active game in a while. Generally speaking, the fourth line was excellent and Erik Gustafsson has seemingly shaken off whatever rust was going on with his game as he’s been noticeably better the last couple of games. Alas, it wasn’t enough to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead in the series as things will return to New York Thursday Night for what becomes a best of three moving forward.