Barclay Goodrow scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the New York Rangers defeated the Florida Panthers, 2-1, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.  Credit: Mario Gonzalez

The Rangers knew they had to be better after their loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, and they indeed were better in Game 2. Much better. And still, it was hard.

But at least they know they are in the series now, thanks to Barclay Goodrow’s goal at 14:01 of overtime, which gave them a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night at Madison Square Garden and evened the series at 1-1.

“You know how big of a goal it is to make a series 1-1 rather than 2-0,’’ Rangers defenseman Adam Fox said. “It’s massive. And you’re excited to see that one go in.’’

The series now shifts to Florida for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon and Game 4 on Tuesday night.

The game-winning play actually started with a clearing pass out of his own end by Jacob Trouba, who lifted a puck to center ice as he took a hit from Florida forward Ryan Lomberg. Goodrow brought the puck down out of the air with his stick at center ice and passed to Vincent Trocheck to his right as the players entered the Florida zone.

Trocheck then lifted a pass over a couple of sticks back to Goodrow, who whipped a shot past Florida defenseman Brandon Montour and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (28 saves) for his fourth goal of the postseason.

The four goals matches Goodrow’s regular-season total.

“Obviously, tonight was a huge game for us,’’ Goodrow said. “We weren’t completely satisfied with the way we played in Game 1. I think we want to rebound tonight with a better game, and I think we feel a lot better with how we looked tonight.’’

Trocheck, who had the primary assist on Goodrow’s game-winner, had the Rangers’ other goal in the first period.

Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves for the Rangers.

The Rangers’ message before the game had been that there wasn’t any panic in their locker room after losing Game 1 on Wednesday. All they had to do was execute better, they said.

Trocheck helped with that when he scored the Rangers’ first goal of the series at 4:12 of the first period. The goal came off something of a broken play after Alexis Lafreniere collided with Florida’s Carter Verhaege in the slot, knocking him down and opening a passing lane for Fox to slide a feed across ice for Trocheck, who whacked it into the gaping back side of the net for his seventh goal of the playoffs.

The Panthers tied it on a power-play goal by Verhaege with 1:51 left in the period. Goodrow was serving an interference penalty when Verhaege faked Alex Wennberg to the ice and fired a shot around him that surprised Shesterkin and got by him for Verhaege’s eighth goal of the postseason.

Rangers coach Peter Laviolette tweaked his lineup, inserting cult hero rookie Matt Rempe and scratching forward Kaapo Kakko. He also made some changes to his lines, moving Filip Chytil up to the right wing with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider and dropping Jack Roslovic into Kakko’s spot on the third line with Wennberg and Will Cuylle.

Rempe, who slotted in on the fourth line with Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey, had a game-high nine hits.

“I thought we were just sharper with everything we were doing,’’ Laviolette said. “It’s a game that goes back and forth. It’s tight. It’s close both ways. I do think that we started to take control the game through the second and did some good things in the third.”

Notes & quotes:

Vesey left the game after the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. Laviolette said he was being evaluated.

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