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Panthers take down Rangers 2-1, clinch trip to second straight Stanley Cup Final

SUNRISE — Paul Maurice has coached more games than anyone in NHL history without winning a Stanley Cup. He tried and came up just short in the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights last year.

He will get another bite at the apple now.

The Panthers beat the Rangers, who were this season’s President’s Trophy winners, 2-1 at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise on Saturday, clinching a second straight trip to the championship round. Florida will face the winner of the Dallas-Edmonton Western Conference finals in the final, which begins on June 8.

Both New York and Florida had good chances in the first period, but it was the Panthers who struck first. Sam Bennett won the puck back in the neutral zone and passed it to Evan Rodrigues. Rodrigues passed back to Bennett, who fired a one-timer over Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin’s left shoulder to put Florida up 1-0 in the final minute of the first period.

The Panthers clung to that lead through the second period as both teams had good opportunities to score. After giving up the first-period goal, Shesterkin returned to the stellar form that has carried the Rangers through the playoffs, making several high-level saves.

Shesterkin could not defend his net forever. About midway through the third period, center Anton Lundell fed Vladimir Tarasenko a pass directly in front of the net, and Tarasenko netted his third goal of the postseason to give the Panthers an insurance goal.

The insurance was needed, as Rangers star Artemi Panarin netted New York’s lone goal with 1:40 left in the third period. But it was too little, too late for New York.

This story will be updated. 

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