NHL

Rangers need Panarin, Kreider and Zibanejad to start scoring to beat the Panthers in East final

Rangers need Panarin, Kreider and Zibanejad to start scoring to beat the Panthers in East final

NEW YORK (AP) — If the New York Rangers are going to have any chance to win the Eastern Conference final against the Florida Panthers, it's time for their top offensive players to find the net.

Through the first four games of the series, Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad haven't scored a goal. They combined for 114 in the regular season, helping New York win the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's best team.

Panarin has contributed three assists against Florida as the Rangers have split the first four games. Kreider and Zibanejad have combined for zero points. Even Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has an assist.

Panarin had two of his assists in the 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4 on Tuesday night, as Kreider and Zibanejad were missing in the offensive zone.

Kreider didn't have a shot Tuesday and finished with one total in 38 minutes of ice time over the two games in Florida. Zibanejad had nine shots in 44 minutes in those games, hitting the crossbar in close on a power play in Game 4 when a goal could have given New York a 2-0 lead.

Game 5 of what is now a best-of-three series is scheduled for Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Rangers coach Peter Laviolette had no problems with Kreider and Zibanejad, saying both are working hard but spending too much time in their own zone playing defense. Breakout passes are not working, and Florida's forecheck is preventing the top line from playing in the Panthers zone much.

“(You) think those players that you’re talking about, like they want to get out of the defensive zone," Laviolette said. “They want to get into the offensive zone where they can make an impact in the game. And so that’s something I thought we did a much better job at home of controlling the play.”

In the games in New York, Laviolette will have the final line change, so he could get a more favorable matchup for Zibanejad, Kreider and whoever goes on the top line. In Games 3 and 4, Florida coach Paul Maurice matched Sam Bennett, Evan Rodrigues and Matthew Tkachuk against the Zibanejad line.

Don't expect to see that in New York, where for the Rangers to take a series lead, they'll need their top scorers to get on the board. During the regular season, Panarin led the team with 49 goals, while Kreider had 39 and Zibanejad 26.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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