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Florida Panthers oust New York Rangers to reach NHL Stanley Cup Final

The Panthers celebrate winning the Eastern Conference Finals
The Panthers celebrate winning the Eastern Conference FinalsAFP
Sam Bennett and Vladimir Tarasenko scored as the Florida Panthers reached the NHL Stanley Cup Final for the second consecutive season by beating the New York Rangers 2-1 on Saturday.

Bennett opened the scoring with 50 seconds remaining in the first period, Tarasenko netted another with 10:52 remaining and Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 22 saves for the Panthers.

The Panthers defeated the Rangers 4-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final and will have the chance to capture their first NHL title when the Stanley Cup Final starts next Saturday.

Florida will face the Western Conference champion, either the Edmonton Oilers or Dallas Stars, in the best-of-seven championship series.

The Oilers lead Dallas 3-2 in the West series, which continues on Sunday.

The Panthers lost to Vegas in last year's Stanley Cup Final and were swept by Colorado in 1996 in their only prior championship series.

The Rangers, who had the NHL's best regular-season record, lost in the conference final for the second time in three seasons, having been ousted by Tampa Bay in 2022.

Florida took 3-2 triumphs in games four and five to seize the series lead and set up the chance to return to the Stanley Cup Final at home.

Bennett blasted a slap shot over the glove of Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin and into the upper right front corner to open the scoring with his fourth goal of the series and sixth of the playoffs.

Tarasenko tapped in a wrist shot for a 2-0 Florida edge. The 32-year-old Russian right wing, who helped St. Louis win the Stanley Cup in 2019, took a pass from Finnish center Anton Lundell that went through two defenders to the far edge of the goal and beat his countryman for his first point of the series.

New York's Artemi Panarin scored an unassisted goal with 1:40 remaining in the third period, ending an eight-game goal drought for the Russian left wing, but the Rangers never managed another shot on goal.

The Rangers have not reached the Stanley Cup Final since a 2014 loss to Los Angeles. They last lifted the trophy in 1994.

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