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NHL Playoffs: Rangers beat Panthers to take 2-1 series lead

SUNRISE, Fla. –

Alex Wennberg deflected home a goal 5:35 into overtime, and the New York Rangers reclaimed home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference finals with a 5-4 win over the Florida Panthers in Game 3 on Sunday.

Ryan Lindgren took a shot from the left point and Wennberg — in front of the Florida net — redirected it past Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the series.

Igor Shesterkin made 34 stops, while Alexis Lafrenière scored two goals and Barclay Goodrow continued his surprising playoff barrage with two more scores for the Rangers.

Sam Reinhart had two power-play goals, while Aleksander Barkov and Gustav Forsling also scored for the Panthers, who’ll play host to Game 4 on Tuesday night. Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots for Florida, which has dropped back-to-back games for the first time in these playoffs — both in OT.

New York led 4-2 going into the third. The Rangers were 26-0-1 this season entering Sunday in games where they led by two or more goals with 20 minutes remaining.

The Panthers weren’t fazed — it was tied up with 13:02 left.

Barkov and Forsling scored less than two minutes apart in the third to erase that two-goal deficit, and Florida caught a break — the right break — with 7:34 left when Barkov was originally called for a high-stick that would have given the Rangers a 4-minute power play. But after review, it was determined that Mika Zibanejad was hit with his own stick and the Barkov penalty came off the board.

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From there, the rest of regulation was, depending on perspective, either all Panthers or all Shesterkin.

Over the last 8:10 of the third, the NHL credited 24 shot attempts — all of them by Florida, as the Panthers just unleashed a barrage on Shesterkin. Of the 24 shot tries, only six were on goal and needed to be saved; nine were blocked, eight missed and one hit the post.

None found the back of the net, and to overtime the teams went.

The New York Rangers celebrate a goal against the Florida Panthers in the first period of Game 3 during the NHL Eastern Conference finals. (Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo)

Probably long forgotten by the finish was the wild start, a complete flip of how the first two games went at Madison Square Garden when Bobrovsky gave up two goals and Shesterkin gave up two goals — not including an own goal and an empty-netter — in 134 minutes of play.

Sunday was different. It was 2-2 after 15 minutes.

Reinhart opened the scoring, Lafrenière and Goodrow scored 25 seconds apart — the fifth-fastest pair of goals in Rangers playoff history — for a 2-1 New York lead. Reinhart tied it later in the first on a goal very similar to his first one, a backhander he lifted past Shesterkin from down low.

Lafrenière and Goodrow each tallied again in the second, Florida answered in the third. But it was the Rangers who struck last, and they’re now just two wins away from their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 2014.

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