Panthers 4 – Rangers 5 (P) | Spring Lafrenière

Alexis Lafrenière has been confirming one thing since the start of the playoffs: certain players selected first in the draft can sometimes take time to find their value. Not only have Quebecers found theirs, but they are being added more and more.


Published at 6:50 p.m.

Updated at 7:49 p.m.

Lafrenière was the best part of his team on Sunday afternoon in another overtime victory for the New York Rangers, this time 5-4, against the Florida Panthers. The Rangers lead the Eastern final 2-1.

The winger scored his team’s first and third goals, both times in brilliant fashion.

In the first period, on a breakaway, he placed his backhand shot over Sergei Bobrovsky’s glove to tie the score, 1-1. At the end of the second, he scored what is undoubtedly the most spectacular goal of his young career by beating veteran defender Dmitry Kulikov, before again beating the Panthers goaltender with the backhand, while losing his balance. He then gave his team a 3-2 lead.

Lafrenière has been impressing since the start of the season. But the sample of 13 games offered to us since the start of the playoffs is enough to reinforce the idea that a first choice, like him, may need a certain period before finding his comfort, understanding his role, gain confidence and get used to the caliber of the best league in the world.

The 22-year-old plays in an eminently talented team. First in the general classification this season, the Rangers can count on five players with at least 70 points. During this first match in Florida, Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad were invisible. It was therefore Lafrenière who took matters in hand. By scoring his sixth goal of the spring, he now ranks third on his team.

The progress of the Saint-Eustache player is impressive. Expectations were sky high when he arrived in the NHL, like the sign the Rangers had installed in Times Square when Lafrenière was drafted and which read “Welcome to Broadway”. He is now at 12 points in 13 games. Before this year, he had only amassed 9 points, including 2 goals, in 27 playoff games.

Lafrenière no longer depends on Panarin or Vincent Trocheck to produce. He himself became master of his destiny. Lively, involved and creative, the Quebecer concluded the game with 2 points, a +2 record, 6 shots on goal and nearly 16 minutes of playing time. Statistics that a player whose progress is a failure could not claim, as several observers announced before his emergence.

Goodrow proves its worth

Barclay Goodrow was heavily criticized this year in the city that never sleeps. Fans refused to turn a blind eye to the meager production of the striker who will earn almost $4 million per year until 2027.

If Lafrenière was a crucial element in the Rangers’ second victory in a row, the same can be said of Goodrow. The 31-year-old center player imitated his teammate by scoring twice. First, by deflecting Braden Schneider’s shot in the first period. Then, thanks to a one-timer at the very end of the second period, when the Rangers had to defend one man short.

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PHOTO WILFREDO LEE, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Barclay Goodrow (21) takes a shot on net defended by Sergei Bobrovsky (72) in the second period.

Goodrow also scored his fifth and sixth goals of the series. A production already higher than in the season, since he had hit the target only 4 times in 80 matches.

The veteran was even quickly used in overtime by his head coach Peter Laviolette, he is such a reinvigorated player.

However, it was Alex Wennberg who settled the debate a little more than five minutes after the start of the extra period. The striker, barely visible during the match, redirected Ryan Lindgren’s shot to give his team a one-match lead.

The big guns work

However, it was not for lack of effort and initiative that the Panthers lost this first match in front of their own. The Floridians dominated a good part of this match, especially at the end of the third period and in overtime. The Rangers seemed exhausted and at their wits’ end. They added up the disallowed clearances. Trocheck was even forced to stretch one of the appearances for more than two minutes. But despite the 37 shots directed at Igor Shesterkin, the Panthers returned to the locker room falling behind in the series.

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PHOTO WILFREDO LEE, ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Panthers return to the locker room after the overtime defeat.

All is not lost, however, for Paul Maurice’s troupe. The best players were the best, and she simply faced a more opportunistic team.

Captain Aleksander Barkov was once again brilliant. He put two points on the board, including his team’s third goal, the one which gave his team a second wind. Sam Reinhart was effective on the power play, scoring two goals in the first period, twice near the opposing netminder’s semi-circle. In addition to his two assists, Matthew Tkachuk also created several scoring chances. In short, there is nothing to worry about in the Florida camp. Their play along the boards, their puck control in the offensive zone and their way of closing the center in defense are unmistakable indicators.

We expected a tight series between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference, and that’s exactly what we’re entitled to.

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