Panthers points streak ends after 5 games in loss in New York

Comebacks have been hard to come by for these Florida Panthers this year, and yet they kept coming throughout Monday’s second third against the New York Rangers.

With 11 shots and a constant barrage of scoring chances against Rangers, the Panthers had plenty of opportunities to close their early deficit in New York. When Florida couldn’t do this, the Rangers made the Panthers pay.

With just his third shot from the second, New York scored to double its lead over Florida ahead of the third period and the Panthers, who are one of only two teams in the NHL still without a win when they’re two thirds down behind, missed their chance. Their five game point streak ended in a 6-2 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

The loss keeps Florida three points from eighth and last postseason spot in the Eastern Conference, and now the Panthers will likely be without Sam Bennett for at least one game. The forward suffered a lower body injury in the first half when he slammed his right foot into the boards and did not play in the third half after initially trying to come back in the second.

Coach Paul Maurice said Bennett probably won’t play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday but could return for two games at Sunrise this weekend before the All-Star break.

On Monday, Florida beat New York 35-26 to finish with a 33-27 lead in scoring chances, but Rangers converted almost half of their 14 dangerous chances into goals.

All-star goaltender Igor Shesterkin is once again an undisputed contender for the Vezina Trophy after winning the award last year, and goaltender Alex Lyon made only his second start last year and the difference was stark. The Panthers didn’t score in the 5-on-5 game, and New York essentially sealed their win when they scored twice in 14 seconds and took a 5-1 lead in the first nine minutes of the third period.

Forward Carter Verhaeghe scored a first-half power-play goal to level the score at 1-1, and star center Aleksander Barkov scored at 8:58 to briefly breathe some life into Florida after coach Paul Maurice aggressively pulled his goalie to an extra -Skaters with almost half of the last period left.

However, Verhaeghe’s early goal only kept the game in a draw for around 11 minutes. Rangers had their only power play of the game at 4:07 of the first period, and star center Mika Zibanejad scored at 2:39 of the period, seconds after Star defenseman Adam Fox hit the post.

The second quarter was ultimately what would doom the Panthers, and their best chance came in the dying minutes there. Florida had another power play with 2:50 left in the period and Shesterkin stopped both of the Panthers’ shots for two of his 33 saves. In the third half, New York beat Florida 11-7 in 5-on-5 action before the Panthers played most of the last nine minutes with an extra skater on the ice, looking for a desperate comeback and by the Filling in her shot Rangers forward Filip Chytil eventually scored an empty goal with 3:11 to go.

This story was originally published Jan 23, 2023 9:46 p.m.

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David Wilson, a native of Maryland, is the Miami Herald’s sports coverage janitor.