Panthers still have plenty of hope against Rangers | News, Sports, Jobs

The Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Carter Verhaeghe pulled his vehicle out of the players’ parking lot after leaving the Florida Panthers’ practice facility on Monday afternoon, only to notice about 50 fans standing on the side of the road clamoring for autographs.

So, he stopped and signed for a while. Brandon Montour did the same. More players, like captain Aleksander Barkov, followed suit a few minutes later. The fans — some kids, some adults, some carrying signs, some wearing jerseys — were, as would be expected, thrilled.

Down 2-1 in the Eastern Conference final to the New York Rangers, the Panthers — seeking a second consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Final — still believe going into Game 4 on their home ice tonight. Evidently, so do their fans.

“You wake up, the sun is shining, everything’s good here,” Panthers forward Sam Bennett said. “It’s not too difficult.”

If only beating the Rangers were so easy.

New York grabbed home-ice back in the series with a 5-4 overtime win on Sunday, a game where the Panthers fired off more than 100 shot attempts — more than doubling what the Rangers tried during the contest. Florida created chance after chance after chance in the third period, especially late.

And it didn’t matter; the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin came up with big stops every time he needed to, Alex Wennberg got a deflection past the Panthers’ Sergei Bobrovsky to win the game, and the team with the best record in the regular season moved two wins away from claiming the East.

“The third was probably our toughest go in the series so far,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said of the Florida onslaught in the third period of Game 3, when the Panthers erased a 4-2 deficit but never reclaimed the lead.

Stars go up 2-1

EDMONTON, Alberta — Jason Robertson completed his first-career playoff hat trick midway through the third period as the Dallas Stars defeated the Edmonton Oilers, 5-3, on Monday night to take a 2-1 lead in the NHL’s Western Conference final.

Wyatt Johnston and Miro Heiskanen, into the empty net, had the other goal for Dallas. Jake Oettinger made 26 saves. Roope Hintz, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn had two assists each.

Connor McDavid, with a goal and an assist to give him 100 career playoff points, Zach Hyman and Adam Henrique scored for Edmonton, which got 17 stops from Stuart Skinner.

Bylsma nears job

SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken are expected to name Dan Bylsma as their coach, according to a person with knowledge of the choice, putting the 2009 Stanley Cup winner in Pittsburgh back in charge of an NHL team for the first time since 2017.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Monday on the condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the hire. The Kraken scheduled a “special announcement” news conference for today, after Sportsnet first reported the decision.

Bylsma has spent the past two seasons as the head coach of the Coachella Valley Firebirds in the American Hockey League, the top affiliate of the Kraken, and has them back in the Calder Cup semifinals. He has worked extensively with several of Seattle’s top prospects.

Bylsma spent parts of eight seasons as a head coach at the NHL level with Pittsburgh and Buffalo. He took over midway through the 2008-09 season in Pittsburgh and helped guide the Penguins to the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh made the playoffs in the five seasons under Bylsma after winning the title, but advanced to the conference final only once in those five trips.

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