Alex Wennberg of the New York Rangers scores the winning...

Alex Wennberg of the New York Rangers scores the winning goal against Florida during overtime in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final at Amerant Bank Arena on Sunday. Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett


The Rangers have won 65 games this regular and playoff season, many of which have defied logic, basic fairness and narrative coherence.

No. 65 might have topped them all — certainly so when you factor in the time of year and the stakes.

They defeated the Panthers, 5-4, in overtime on Sunday in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final at Amerant Bank Arena despite, well . . . pretty much everything.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

This is who the Rangers are: a team with plenty of traditional skills but even more skill at simply finding a way to win.

Statistics and analytics fans spent the day shaking their heads at the numbers, some of which were comical.

No use overdoing that, though. Let’s keep it simple and use this nugget to make the point: Florida attempted 108 shots; the Rangers attempted 44.

When a reporter cited that statistic to Vincent Trocheck, he started answering the question, then interrupted himself and came back to the numbers.

He said, “108 to 44. That’s a lot more lopsided than I would have thought.”

Not to the rest of us.

The Rangers did play pretty well in the second period for a 4-2 lead. But they were fortunate to escape the third with merely blowing that two-goal lead.

Goaltender Igor Shesterkin was outstanding in keeping the score tied — even after hearing his name chanted derisively when the Panthers tied it.

Gustav Forsling hit the right post with a shot that would have put the Panthers ahead.

Somehow the Rangers were able to survive until overtime.

Players admitted that words were spoken after the third period, without saying exactly what they were. Fair to assume they were pointed.

Then Alex Wennberg won it at 5:35 of the extra period when he was left alone in front of the Florida net and used the shaft of his stick to redirect Ryan Lindgren’s shot from the left point past Sergei Bobrovsky. It was a shining moment for the third line, which has taken criticism for its lack of goal-scoring lately.

Speaking of overtime, here is another way of looking at the Rangers’ remarkable ability to come through in clutch situations: In the second and third rounds, they are 2-3-4 after regulation time against the Hurricanes and Panthers. They are 4-0 in overtime.

“Finding ways to win is huge in the playoffs,” Trocheck said. “I don’t know if it really matters whether it’s overtime, regulation, up two late, down two late. It’s all the same.”

Said Barclay Goodrow, “In the end, a win’s a win . . . Each game brings its own storyline.”

Goodrow scored two goals, one shorthanded, to continue his stunning playoff heater. He scored four goals in 80 regular-season games. He has six goals in 13 playoff games.

The other two goals in regulation time came from Alexis Lafreniere, the second of which was a highlight-reel individual effort in which he faked around Dmitry Kulikov and Oliver Ekman-Larsson and beat Bobrovsky with a backhand.

“No surprise,” Trocheck said of Lafreniere, who is having his best NHL season. “He oozes confidence out there when he has the puck.”

The fact that the two stars of regulation time were a 22-year-old former No. 1 overall draft pick and an undrafted 31-year-old fourth-line grinder illustrates the range of the Rangers’ roster and their anyone-can-be-a-hero mindset.

The Rangers have work to do if they are to win two more against the Panthers, who for long stretches of the first three games have looked like the better team. The Rangers’ power play, the strength on which it usually relies, is 0-for-8 in the series and 1-for-18 overall since early in the second round.

Their defense had several lapses, giveaways and penalties. There will be no shortage of material for coach Peter Laviolette to go over on Monday.

But as Goodrow said, in the end, a win’s a win.

It was the Rangers’ 34th comeback victory this season, which set an NHL record, surpassing the 2005-06 Hurricanes and 1983-84 Oilers.

Both of those teams’ seasons ended with the Stanley Cup in their hands. The Rangers will join them if they can find a way to win six more times.


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