Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers celebrates the game-winning...

Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers celebrates the game-winning goal in overtime by teammate Sam Reinhart (not pictured) past Igor Shesterkin #31 of the Rangers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amerant Bank Arena on May 28, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida. Credit: Getty Images/Joel Auerbach

SUNRISE, Fla. – There are limits, apparently, as to how often the Rangers can play this rope-a-dope game they play and just expect to win games just because that is what they do.

It didn’t work Tuesday night in Amerant Bank Arena as the Florida Panthers relentlessly pounded them and pounded them over the final two periods of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final, and eventually were rewarded when Sam Reinhart scored a power-play goal at 1:12 of overtime to give the Panthers a 3-2 victory that evened the best-of-seven series at 2-2.

It was the third straight overtime game of this series. The Rangers dropped to 4-1 in overtime games in these playoffs.

Game 5 is Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Panthers got the power play because Blake Wheeler, inserted into the lineup by coach Peter Laviolette, and playing his first game since February, was forced to hook Aleksander Barkov who skated in on a breakaway. Barkov ended up setting up Reinhart in the slot for the game-winner.

The Rangers had trailed 2-1 entering the third period – and were largely in the game only because of the brilliant work of Igor Shesterkin (37 saves) – but red-hot Alexis Lafreniere scored his third goal in two games, and his seventh of the postseason, tapping in a pass from Adam Fox to tie it at 2-2 at 3:28 of the third.

Coming off their 5-4 overtime win over the Panthers on Sunday, Laviolette tinkered with his lineup, inserting Wheeler, and taking out Filip Chytil, apparently in some sort of load management strategy.

After Florida had lost Game 3 after dominating the third period and racking up an incredible 108-44 advantage in shot attempts, Panthers coach Paul Maurice had said that was not the kind of game he would want his team to put behind it quickly.

“A lot of times in the playoffs, we're making sure that you keep that energy, cut off your losses and you let it go,’’ Maurice had said. “Then there's times you want to keep it, and eat it. And let it burn for a while.’’

The Panthers, clearly were itching to pick up where they left off in Game 3 when the game started. They dominated the first seven minutes of the game, outshooting the Rangers 6-1 before Anton Lundell was called for a high-sticking penalty against Will Cuylle. And things turned around on the ensuing Rangers power play.

The power-play unit, which had been 0-for-8 in the first three games of the series and 1-for-its-last-18 overall, moved the puck around great, got a few shots off at Bobrovsky, and finally ended its drought when Vincent Trocheck blasted a one-timer past Bobrovsky for a 1-0 lead at 8:51 of the period.

After that goal, the Rangers seemed to take over for the rest of the period, and by the time it was over, they had the lead in shots on goal, 13-11. But then, in the second period, it was Florida’s turn to change momentum with its power play.

First, defenseman Ryan Lindgren, battling on the end boards with Barkov, got called for holding Barkov at 6:42 of the second period. With Lindgren, a first-pair defenseman on the penalty kill, in the box, the Panthers tied the game on a goal by Sam Bennett, who jammed in his own rebound from behind the goal line, at 8:45. It wasn’t a power-play goal, but it might as well have been.

Then, with another penalty killer, forward Barclay Goodrow, in the box for shooting the puck over the glass, Florida took the lead on a goal by Carter Verhaeghe, who batted in his own rebound to make it 2-1 at 12:16.

After that, the Rangers were on the defensive the rest of the period, with Florida just pouring shot attempts at the Ranger net. The scoring chances in the second period were 19-4, and the high-danger chances 7-0, in favor of Florida, according to the analytics website Natural Stat Trick. The Panthers held a 25-18 advantage in shots on goal after two periods, and the Rangers had blocked 15 shots.

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