Sergei Bobrovsky, Panthers blank Rangers in Game 1

NEW YORK — Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves as the Florida Panthers constantly bottled up the New York Rangers and opened the Eastern Conference final with a 3-0 victory Wednesday night.

Game 2 is Friday in New York before the Panthers host Games 3 and 4.

Matthew Tkachuk scored his fifth playoff goal with 3:34 remaining in the opening period and Bobrovsky made it stand up, especially in the third. Carter Verhaeghe added an insurance tally with 3:48 left in the third, his seventh of the postseason, and Sam Bennett finished it off with an empty-net score for his third postseason goal.

After the Rangers mustered 12 shots on goal through the first two periods, Bobrovsky stopped 11 shots in the third.

Before Florida got its second goal, Bobrovsky made consecutive pad saves on Alexander Wennberg with about 7 1/2 minutes remaining. He then helped kill off a New York power play when Florida was called for having too many men on the ice by denying Vincent Trocheck and Adam Fox.

Bobrovsky allowed two goals or fewer for the sixth straight game in this postseason and recorded his second career playoff shutout.

The Rangers constantly struggled to gain any traction offensively and encountered strong Florida defense whenever they attempted to sustain any offensive pressure. New York lost for the third time in four games after starting the postseason with seven straight victories.

New York goalie Igor Shesterkin stopped 24 shots.

The Panthers constantly hounded the Rangers into misplaying the puck and scored after Gustav Forsling forced Artemi Panarin into a turnover. As Panarin was about to set up a shot from the right faceoff circle, he lost it to Forsling, who quickly moved the puck through the neutral zone and into the Florida zone.

Forsling regained possession and made a quick drop pass to Tkachuk. Before Fox could get in position for the block, Tkachuk released a wrist shot from slightly above the left circle that trickled off Shesterkin’s left pad and into the net.

The Panthers appeared to take a 2-0 lead with 11:15 remaining in the third when Tarasenko’s shot from the left circle got past Shesterkin. After officials reviewed the play, the goal was disallowed because Florida’s Ryan Lomberg interfered with Shesterkin in the crease jostling for position with New York defenseman Ryan Lindgren.

Florida got its second goal when New York’s Alexis Lafreniere attempted to intercept Verhaeghe’s pass to Tkachuk and tipped into the net.

–Larry Fleisher, Field Level Media