Thanks to Differing Motivations, Back Panthers to Dump Rangers

Matthew Jordan

Friday, March 9, 2018 3:35 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 9, 2018 3:35 PM UTC

The Florida Panthers are right in the wild-card hunt, while the New York Rangers’ playoff chances are essentially gone. The two meet Saturday night (7 ET) in south Florida.

New York Rangers (66 points) at Florida Panthers (73 points)Free NHL Pick: PanthersBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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A total of 22 of the league’s 31 teams are in action Saturday, and it’s an interesting schedule with seven matinees – most teams want home night games on weekends because that’s when they draw better. It’s a 7 p.m. ET puck drop from outside Miami when the Panthers welcome the New York Rangers. Also the last meeting between these clubs, and it features the two active goaltenders (assuming they play) with the most wins in the Panthers’ Roberto Luongo (fourth all-time) and Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist (eighth).

May have to predict a 5-4 final score here as the first two games ended that way. It was a Rangers overtime win in Florida on Nov. 4. Kevin Shattenkirk scored twice, including the winner in overtime – he’s currently out injured. Lundqvist had 30 saves. Colton Sceviour scored two goals for the Panthers and Luongo made 39 saves.

Florida won by that same count in regulation at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 28. Denis Malgin scored the winner at 18:51 of the third. The Panthers had twice blown three-goal leads. James Reimer finished with 33 saves. Chris Kreider had two goals and an assist for New York. Lundqvist was pulled after three early goals and relieved by Ondrej Pavelec.

The road team has won the past five in the series.

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Panthers Just Outside Of Playoff Field

There might be more Rangers fans than Panthers backers at BB&T Center in Sunrise as south Florida is overflowing with New Yorkers during the winter months – plus it’s spring break time up north.

The Blueshirts were supposedly waiving the white flag on the season by dealing several of their top veterans by the Feb. 26 trade deadline, but something interesting is happening: New York is playing a bit better. Entering that date, New York had lost seven in a row. Since, the Rangers are 3-2 -- although they enter on a two-game skid and lost both by multiple goals.

On Thursday, New York lost 5-3 at league-leading Tampa Bay. Amazingly, by the time the Rangers got their first shot, the Lightning had 17 of them and led 2-0. Lundqvist was pulled in the second period after allowing four total goals. He was replaced by Alexander Georgiev. Kreider did not return after the first period for "precautionary" reasons after getting hit in the head, according to the team. He has 12 goals and 13 assists this season.

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Roberto Luongo of the @FlaPanthers posted his 75th career shutout to move within one of tying Tony Esposito and Ed Belfour for ninth place on the NHL’s all-time list among goaltenders. #NHLStats #MTLvsFLA

— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 9, 2018

It’s vital that Florida collect plenty of points over the next week or so as it began a five-game homestand, the team’s longest remaining, on Thursday with a 5-0 win over Montreal. Vital because seven of the Panthers’ next eight games are on the road, where they are 13-16-4 compared to 20-9-3 at home. Luongo made 40 saves in his second shutout of the season Thursday in Florida’s seventh straight home victory. The Panthers have points in eight consecutive games overall. Aleksander Barkov had two assists vs. the Canadiens and has five goals and nine assists during an eight-game point streak.

New York has won six of its past seven at the Panthers, but this Rangers team isn’t close to the versions the past couple of years. The Blueshirts also have dropped 14 of their past 17 vs. clubs with a winning record. Florida has won 13 of its past 16 against those with losing marks. Take the Panthers for a Saturday NHL pick.

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