Recap: Soft Goal Shuts Rangers Down, 4-2 Loss to Florida

Recap: Soft Goal Shuts Rangers Down, 4-2 Loss to Florida
Mar 4, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett (9) and New York Rangers center Barclay Goodrow (21) battle for control of the puck in the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers find themself in a bit of a mini-slump as they pick up their third loss across their last four games. It was a highly coveted match-up between two Eastern Conference powerhouses, but a lack of threatening offense from the Rangers mixed with Florida’s shutdown style set the tone for an underwhelming third period that only amplifies the noise regarding the team’s needs with the looming trade deadline.

1st Period:

It was an incredibly fast paced, aggressive start to this one as both teams were firing on all cylinders right out the gate. Florida was playing their typical truculent style of game with a heavy forecheck while the Rangers were matching that to the best of their abilities defensively, still finding ways to move the puck and make plays along the way. As the period went on, things began to get physical as a spirited scrum ensued following a Florida scoring chance and neither side hesitated from finishing their checks as the period went on.

With just under five minutes to go, Adam Fox caught Matthew Tkachuk mid turn and sent him hard into the boards from behind. Tkachuk naturally jumped up to express his lack of appreciation for the hit which resulted in another gathering along the boards. Despite Vincent Trocheck immediately jumping into Fox’s defense, Tkachuk would end up with the only penalty of the scrum after throwing a couple of punches in Fox’s direction.

This gave the Rangers the first power play of the night which was mostly spent chasing the puck around, allowing for a couple of shorthanded chances for the Panthers. Just as the man advantage was coming to an end, Jacob Trouba let a hard shot go from the point which generated a rebound for Will Cuylle to hammer home to make it 1-0 Rangers.

Not long after the goal, Mika Zibanejad drew another Florida penalty as Kevin Stenlund was called for holding. The Rangers power play units appeared to have a slightly better time generating possession this time around but the Panthers were still able to hold them off, this time for the entire two minutes.

With less than 40 seconds to go in the period, Adam Edström took the Rangers first penalty of the night as he was sent off for interference against Carter Verhaeghe. They would hold the Panthers power play off for the remainder of the period, leaving a bulk of the work in that regard for the second period. Shots were 10-7 after the first twenty in favor of the Rangers in a game that certainly had quite a playoff-like intensity to it early on.

2nd Period:

Panthers wasted no time getting situated on the power play as Sam Reinhart flicked a quick shot off the post on a point-blank chance. Nevertheless, the Rangers kept the Panthers off the board as the team’s returned to even strength. Much of the same style of play continued from there as Matt Rempe delivered a hard hit on Gustav Forsling which left Jonah Gadjovich wanting a fight. Wisely, Rempe turned down the offer.

The feistiness continued as another big scrum ensued after Nick Cousins gave Fox a cross check after a whistle in the Rangers zone.

Nearing the halfway point of the game, the Rangers sent Florida back to the power play as Jacob Trouba tripped up Aleksander Barkov in their own zone. After a valiant penalty kill from the Rangers, Matt Rempe would send them back to the disadvantage as he ended up leg tripping Eetu Luostarinen while delivering a hit. The Rangers wouldn’t have as much luck on this one as Sam Reinhart would capitalize on a golden opportunity right at the doorstep off an incredible play that led to the pass from Barkov to tie things up 1-1.

Less than two minutes later, Barkov and Reinhart exchanged a perfectly executed give and go sequence which resulted in Reinhart picking up his second of the night on an absolute rocket of a shot to make it 2-1 Florida.

With six minutes to go in the period, Braden Schneider took a hard stick up high from Anton Lundrell which drew some blood to give the Rangers a four minute power play opportunity. It took a couple of minutes, but the Rangers finally converted on the power play as Artemiy Panarin sent it over to Trocheck in the slot whose quick shot left a juicy rebound for Chris Kreider to find the back of the net, tying the game back up at two apiece.

As the final minutes of the second period dwindled, another strong shift from the Rangers fourth line resulted in chants of “REM-PE, REM-PE” breaking out at the Garden. Say what you will about his style of play or all the hype, whether justified or not, surrounding his first two weeks in the NHL but how could you not be thrilled for this kid? He earned his call-up and subsequently, earned his keep through the weeks that followed. Love to see the crowd getting up for him as he’s become quite a fan favorite.

With two periods in the books, the Rangers continued to out-shoot their opponents 23-17 as they battled a tough Florida team in a 2-2 game. The stage was set for one of these teams to show who wanted it more as it already felt like a “next goal decides” type of night.

3rd Period:

Things seemed to slow down a bit as there was a noticeably calmer approach to the third period but that would change rather suddenly about six minutes in. After a bit of a missed call on the Panthers as Jonny Brodzinski was taken down, Ryan Lomberg came in and let a floater of a shot go from far out that somehow fooled Igor Shesterkin to give Florida the 3-2 lead. Hard to tell if Shesterkin was screened on the play or what but that is without question a goal he would like to have back.

With half the period in the books, the Rangers needed something to shift momentum and almost had it as Mika Zibanejad deflected a shot from Ryan Lindgren that required a flashy glove save from Sergei Bobrovsky. The Rangers chances were growing fewer and further between with one rush chance from Trocheck being the only one that really stood out.

The Panthers were really taking away the neutral zone from the Rangers, making it incredibly difficult for them to get any sort of offensive zone time generated. It wasn’t until the final couple of minutes where the Rangers got one strong shift from the Zibanejad line which was mainly credited to Kaapo Kakko for his strength and aggressiveness on the puck behind the net. With Shesterkin on the bench, the Rangers gave it a last ditch effort but an empty-netter from Anton Lundell put an ugly bow on this frustrating loss.

For forty minutes, the Rangers played a fairly decent game and kept up with Florida well but a weak goal against ended up being the difference maker in an otherwise disappointing period. The Rangers registered just six shots on goal in the third as they couldn’t break Florida’s tight shutdown style. Will definitely be a game to learn from as the Rangers gear up for a big week of practice, off until after the trade deadline when they host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday Night.