Rangers center Alex Wennberg, right, watches as his deflection eludes Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for the winning goal in overtime Sunday in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals in Sunrise, Fla. Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

SUNRISE, Fla. — Igor Shesterkin gave the New York Rangers a chance. Alex Wennberg got just enough of his stick on the puck to become the hero.

And just like that, the Rangers reclaimed home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference finals.

Wennberg deflected the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky 5:35 into overtime, and the Rangers survived an all-out barrage from the Florida Panthers in the final minutes of regulation before escaping with a 5-4 victory – one that gave New York a 2-1 lead in the series.

“This is a team,” said Wennberg, who had one goal in his first 31 games with the Rangers since being acquired in March from Seattle for draft picks. “It doesn’t matter who’s the hero. It doesn’t matter who does it, we have everyone fighting for one another. Yeah, maybe I haven’t put up the same amount of points, but we’re a team. Everything we do, we do together.”

Ryan Lindgren took a shot from the left point and Wennberg – a former Panther, who was parked in front of the Florida net – redirected it past Bobrovsky for New York’s second consecutive OT winner in the series.

Shesterkin made 34 stops, Alexis Lafrenière scored twice, and Barclay Goodrow continued his surprising playoff barrage with two more goals for the Rangers. Goodrow has six goals in the playoffs, after four in the entire regular season.


“He’s been a key contributor,” Rangers Coach Peter Laviolette said.

Sam Reinhart had two power-play goals, while Aleksander Barkov and Gustav Forsling also scored for the Panthers, who’ll host Game 4 on Tuesday night. Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots for Florida, which has dropped back-to-back games for the first time in these playoffs – both in OT.

“Sometimes you want to keep the growl,” Panthers Coach Paul Maurice said. “A lot of times in the playoffs, it’s making sure that you keep that energy full, that you cut off your losses and let it go. Then there’s times you want to keep it and eat it and let it burn for a while and find a different kind of energy source. … Tonight, you should be a little growly.”

New York led 4-2 going into the third. The Rangers were 26-0-1 this season in games where they led by two or more goals with 20 minutes remaining.

Barkov and Forsling scored less than two minutes apart in the third to erase the two-goal deficit. Florida then caught a break with 7:34 left when Barkov was called for a high-sticking penalty that would have given the Rangers a 4-minute power play. After review, it was determined that Mika Zibanejad was hit with his own stick, and the Barkov penalty came off the board.

Probably long forgotten by the finish was the wild start, a complete flip of how the first two games went at Madison Square Garden, when both Bobrovsky and Shesterkin gave up two goals – not including an own goal and an empty-netter – in 134 minutes of play.

Sunday, it was 2-2 after 15 minutes.

Reinhart opened the scoring, but Lafrenière and Goodrow scored 25 seconds apart – the fifth-fastest pair of goals in Rangers playoff history – for a 2-1 New York lead. Reinhart tied it later in the first on a goal very similar to his first one, a backhander he lifted past Shesterkin from down low.

Lafrenière and Goodrow each tallied again in the second, then Florida answered in the third. But it was the Rangers who struck last, and they’re now just two wins away from their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 2014.

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