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Anton Lundell scores crucial goal for Panthers, putting Florida a game away from Stanley Cup Final

Anton Lundell chose an opportune moment to score his first goal of the conference finals.

The 22-year-old forward had been kept out of the net through four games and two periods, but he got his first score of the series with less than 10 minutes left in the third period of Game 5 on Thursday. His goal put the Panthers ahead 2-1 as they picked up a crucial 3-2 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in New York.

“This would have been my wildest dream to ever play in the NHL, to play in the playoffs and the conference finals,” said Lundell on the ESPN broadcast, which referenced a trip Lundell took to Madison Square Garden as a child. “It doesn’t get much better than this.”

The victory on Thursday gives the Panthers a 3-2 lead in the conference finals and gives them a chance to clinch their second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final in Game 6 in Sunrise on Saturday night.

Lundell fired his shot past Rangers star goalie Igor Shesterkin. The puck sailed underneath Shesterkin’s right arm, and New York could not equalize.

Although Shesterkin ultimately surrendered the game-winning goal, he and his fellow netminder, Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky dominated the first half. Bobrovsky had 11 saves in the first 20 minutes, while Shesterkin had eight.

The Rangers went ahead after Matthew Tkachuk turned the puck over in New York’s zone. Rangers center Mika Zibanejad got the puck to veteran Chris Kreier, who beat Bobrovsky around the goalie’s left skate and put the Rangers up 1-0 early in the second period.

Florida evened the score with with Gustav Forsling’s fourth goal of the postseason. The defenseman received a deft pass from center Sam Bennett directly in front of Shesterkin and beat the Rangers’ goalie about midway through the second period to tie the game.

Although both goalies surrendered goals in the second period, they kept it close into the third until Lundell put Florida ahead. Bennett put the Panthers ahead 3-1 with an empty-net goal late in the third period, which would prove crucial.

The Rangers made it close in the final minute, as Alexis Lafreniere deflected a shot by Zibanejad past Bobrovsky with about 50 seconds remaining. But the Panthers hung on in the final minute to take the series lead.

“Huge win,” Lundell told ESPN. “Huge win. But the series is still open. We have one more win to go.”

This story will be updated.

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