Bobrovsky makes 23 saves for first shutout of the postseason, Panthers beat Rangers 3-0 in Game 1

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NEW YORK (AP) — Sergei Bobrovsky had a long stretch without seeing a shot on goal in the middle of the game, and then there was a flurry in the third period.

No matter, he stopped everything that came his way.

Bobrovsky had 23 saves for his first shutout of the postseason, and the Panthers beat the New York Rangers 3-0 on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.

“I think you have to be a veteran goalie to do what he did tonight,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “Sit for a while, make huge saves, and sense the last 10 minutes of the game that’s where he has to be Sergei.”

Matthew Tkachuk had a goal and an assist, and Carter Verhaeghe and Sam Bennett also scored for Florida.

Bobrovsky, who had six shutouts during the regular season, had five saves in the first period, seven in the second and 11 in the third for his second career shutout in the playoffs.

“They are a good team, we did a really good defense, we executed our system,” the 35-year-old goalie said. “It’s a big win for us. A game we can build on. … It’s one game. There’s still a lot of hockey to play. We have to keep grinding.”

Igor Shesterkin finished with 24 saves for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers. They lost for the third time in four games after opening the postseason with seven straight victories.

“We can play better, that wasn’t the best version of ourselves,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’ll look to see what they did, see what we can do better in all areas of the game. There’s more for us to give, more for us to do out there.”

Game 2 is Friday night in New York.

With Florida leading 1-0, Bobrovsky slid to his left to deny a one-timer with Kaapo Kakko 6 1/2 minutes into the third period.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson appeared to add to the lead when he beat Shesterkin from the left side several minutes later. However, the goal was overturned after a challenge for goalie interference because the Panthers’ Ryan Lomberg bumped into Shesterkin in the crease.

“I thought it was right because it’s the call I would want to see on Bobrovsky,” Maurice said.

The Rangers had a flurry of chances with about seven minutes remaining. Alexander Wennberg was denied on two attempts in close, Jacob Trouba had a shot blocked and Wennberg missed on another shot seconds later.

Bobrovsky made a kick save on a drive by Adam Fox during a New York power play with 5:25 remaining.

“He was really good,” Tkachuk said about Bobrovsky. “We did a good job of blocking shots, and when we needed him he was huge, especially with a couple of breakaways. So yeah, he gives us a lot of confidence.”

The Panthers made it 2-0 when Verhaeghe’s centering pass for Tkachuk was deflected past Shesterkin by Lafreniere with 3:48 to go. Verhaeghe got credit for his seventh of the playoffs.

The Rangers pulled Shesterkin for an extra skater with 3 1/2 minutes remaining, but could not beat Bobrovsky.

The goalie stopped a slap shot by Mika Zibanejad to preserve the shutout, and Bennett sealed the victory with an empty-netter with 1:19 left.

Bobrovsky made a right pad save on Will Cuylle’s breakaway attempt in the opening minute of the second period to preserve the lead.

The Rangers had four shots on goal in the first 1:55 of the second period, and then went nearly 14 1/2 minutes without one until Adam Fox’s attempt with 3:42 left.

Tkachuk opened the scoring late in the first period. Forsling brought the puck up the left side, dropped a pass to Tkachuk, who beat Shesterkin from the left circle over the goalie’s glove with 3:34 left. It was his fifth goal and 15th point of the playoffs.

About 1:15 later, Schneider got a breakaway and fired a shot past Bobrovsky that hit off the goalpost.

The Rangers had forward Filip Chytil back for the second time in the postseason. He missed the final 72 games of the regular season because of n injury believed to be a concussion before returning for Game 3 of the second round against Carolina and then was out for the rest of the series.

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A previous version of this report was corrected to change the score to 3-0.

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AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.ap)news.com/hub/NHL

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