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Familiar flaw does in Rangers despite improved effort

SUNRISE, Fla. — Better, but hardly complete.

The Rangers had quite an improvement from one of their worst games in recent memory, but were undercut by their struggling penalty kill and lost, 4-3, to the Panthers at BB&T Center on Saturday night.

The Rangers (8-8-2) were coming off a historically bad loss, a 9-3 defeat at Tampa Bay on Thursday night. It was hard to be equally bad, so they were certainly better in this one. But it did look a lot like the most recent time these two teams met, just this past Sunday at the Garden, when the Panthers (10-5-5) ended up taking a 6-5 win in the shootout — a game that Rangers coach David Quinn said resembled “a shootout at the O.K. Corral.”

While that was the case for most of this game yet again, Quinn and his team went into the third period down, 4-3. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, tying Grant Fuhr for 10th on the all-time list of appearances with 868, kept his team in it late in the third. He made a big stop on Jonathan Huberdeau with just under five minutes remaining in regulation.

The Blueshirts then got a golden chance to tie it when the Panthers were called for too many men on the ice with 4:30 remaining. But they weren’t able to beat goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, not then, and not into the frantic final moments when Lundqvist was on the bench for the extra attacker.

So it ended, with nothing to show for this two-game swing through Florida.

Early on, it was the Rangers penalty kill that continued to, well, kill them. After allowing five goals on the man-advantage to the Lightning, they allowed the Panthers to score on each of their first two chances. The first came from Mike Hoffman at 2:05 of the first period — matched just 34 seconds later when Ryan Strome finished a backdoor tap-in on a great pass from Jesper Fast at full strength — and the second came at 6:50, when Evgenii Dadonov, open in the slot, scored to make it 2-1.

The Rangers didn’t wait long to answer that one, either, as Artemi Panarin had a bouncer get passed Bobrovsky, his old buddy from Columbus, at 8:47 to tie it at 2-2, going into the second period.

Early in the second, Panarin, who was on the puck all night, found Tony DeAngelo open at the right post — but Bobrovsky made a highlight-reel glove save. Minutes later, Panarin again found DeAngelo is a very similar spot and this time he finished, giving the Rangers a 3-2 lead. Yet the shootout continued as Brett Connolly was able to beat Lundqvist a quick shot from the right dot at 7:51, tying it at 3-3.

Before the second period could end, the Panthers were pressuring and former Ranger Keith Yandle made a great slap-pass to Dadonov, who one-timed a beauty into the top corner from the right dot, giving Florida a 4-3 lead going into the third.

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