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Dave Hyde: How do you lose a game you dominate? Somehow, Panthers are down 2-1 to Rangers

SUNRISE — Afterward, the Florida Panthers stayed on their bench, waiting and waiting for the New York Rangers winning goal to be ruled official. The Rangers bench had emptied, the players already celebrating in their locker room. The Panthers waited, silent, as if in disbelief at what just happened.

How do you lose a game you’ve controlled?

How can you fall behind in a series you’ve looked in charge most of the way?

They had 108 shot attempts to the Rangers’ 44. They had two power-play goals to none for the Rangers. They controlled play so thoroughly in the third period the Rangers seemed happy to just throw the puck to the other end for constant icing.

“Under siege,’’ was the term New York coach Peter Laviolette used for his team’s condition in the third period.

Yet Laviolette was Sunday’s winner, his team up 2-to-1 in the series, this game just another in the Rangers’ postseason of big moments.

This day came down to small lapses, odd luck and good Rangers counter-punching that took advantage of any crease in the Panthers game. In short, it’s a big mistake not to notice the Panthers’ little mistakes that led to a simple shot from the point being deflected by Alex Wennberg for the game-winner.

New York, for instance, scored two goals in 25 seconds in the first period. Did one Panthers mistake lead to a quick second? Or take the their short-handed goal in the second period. Vincent Trocheck, the Rangers’ best player in the series, wasn’t knocked off the puck by Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour and passed to Barclay Goodrow for the score.

Sam Reinhart had two power-play goals Sunday, but calls the Panthers a “defensive team at heart” and that’s where Game 3 was lost.

“Our expectation at home is that we can keep it to two (opposing goals), maybe three at home,’’ Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “Not 4.”

The Rangers got five.

“We need to look at our mistakes, see where we can get better,’’ Barkov said. Then, as if to be sure, he said, “There were some good things in this game.”

The Panthers, for instance, came back from a 4-2 deficit in the third period. Maurice juggled the Panthers lines to find a spark. Barkov tipped in one. Gustav Forsling tied up the game as his offensive game keeps picking up.

That got back to the central truth of this series: The Panthers carried much of the play. After their two-goal comeback in the third period, they kept coming so hard that Laviolette took a timeout.

It was a well-placed one, too. The Rangers’ magic of Matt Rempe was gone, as his limited game wasn’t even allowed on the ice in the third period. The Rangers seemed to settle the game — at least until Jacob Trouba took his third penalty of the day. As opposed to a previous, dangerous elbow thrown at Evan Rodrigues, this one came after his stick broke and he wrestled a driving Matthew Tkachuk to the ice.

The Panthers had the Rangers on the ropes for the final minutes of regulation, getting chance after chance, Forsling hitting the post to Bennett just unable to tee up the puck for a good shot.

Yet it was 4-4.

“We needed to get back to work, get back on the forecheck,’’ Laviollette said. “We were taking a lot of heat in the third period. I don’t necessarily think one period leads to the next period … Everything plays out differently. It was a chance to re-set.”

The Rangers kept getting the moments they needed, too. That’s been a Panthers hallmark the past two springs. Wennberg delivered the overtime goal Sunday, just as Goodrow did in Game 2.

The Panthers have dominated large stretches of play.

They’re also down 2-1 in the series.


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