rangers playoffs

SUNRISE, Fla. — The stakes are clear for both the Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers as they face off in the Eastern Conference title showdown.

For the Panthers, a single victory will secure their return to the Stanley Cup Final. For the Rangers, a win means heading home with their championship hopes still alive.

The Prince of Wales Trophy, awarded to the Eastern Conference champions and claimed by Florida last year, will be up for grabs on Saturday night. The Panthers will host the Rangers in Game 6, leading the series 3-2 after a 3-2 win at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

“We don’t want to think too much ahead right now,” said Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov, emphasizing that their focus remains on the present task.

“The job is not finished,” Barkov added.

Panthers coach Paul Maurice echoed this sentiment, stressing the importance of adhering to their game plan. “The team that is closest to their identity wins, whether it’s an elimination game or not,” Maurice said on Friday before the team’s flight back to South Florida. “How fast and quick you can get to your identity wins the game.”

The Rangers, having already secured one victory in Florida with a Game 3 overtime win, know they can triumph on the road. They also boasted 25 road wins in the regular season, tied for third-most in the NHL.

“Now we’ve just got to go there, get one and give ourselves a chance to come back here and win a Game 7,” said Rangers defenseman Adam Fox after Thursday’s loss.

new york rangers

The Panthers have been consistent in their scoring, netting exactly three goals in each of their series victories. The Rangers have been dominant when allowing two goals or fewer, with a 43-1-0 record (1-0 in this series), but they struggle when conceding three or more, with a 22-27-4 record (1-3 in this series).

“We knew it was going to be tight defensively,” said Rangers coach Peter Laviolette. “The way they played the regular season and the playoffs up until this point let us believe that it wasn’t going to be wide open.”

The last four games have all been decided by a single goal, with New York winning the first two and Florida the last two. The Panthers thrive in these tight situations, boasting a 16-5 record in one-goal games over the past two postseasons, the best since 2023.

“Our approach is one game at a time. We’ve got business to take care of still,” said Panthers forward Sam Bennett. “All we’re thinking about is Game 6 at home. That’s our entire focus right now.”

The Rangers have 65 wins this season, the second-most in club history, trailing only the 68 wins by the 1993-94 Stanley Cup-winning team.


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