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Road-weary Rangers return home to face NHL-leading Panthers

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Eight days after Halloween, the New York Rangers will be presented with a trick-or-treat scenario Monday night.

Treat: The chance to return home after a long and frustrating West Coast road trip. Trick: A date against the hottest team in the NHL.

The Florida Panthers will look to extend their point streak and remain unbeaten in regulation Monday night, when they are slated to visit the Rangers in the first game between the teams in almost exactly two years.

Both teams were off Sunday after playing Saturday, when the host Panthers ended the Carolina Hurricanes’ nine-game winning streak with a 5-2 win and the Rangers absorbed a 6-0 loss to the Calgary Flames.

The loss was the third straight for the Rangers, who opened the four-game road trip by beating the Seattle Kraken 3-1 on Halloween night but were outscored 15-7 in losing to the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Flames.

The shutout Saturday capped a frustrating back-to-back set for the Rangers, who began trending for all the wrong reasons in squandering a 4-1 lead against the Oilers in Friday’s 6-5 overtime loss. Connor McDavid forced overtime by weaving through four New York players to collect the tying goal with 2:59 left before Leon Draisaitl scored 3:27 into the extra session.

The Rangers then mustered just 22 shots Saturday, when they gave up at least six goals in a second consecutive game for the first time since Jan. 2 and 4, 2019, when New York fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins 7-2 and the Colorado Avalanche 6-1.

With the NHL-leading Panthers awaiting, the Rangers lamented their inability to knock off the Oilers and Flames, who entered play Sunday ranked first and second in the Western Conference in points.

“We’ve talked about it, we haven’t beaten the Edmontons or the Calgarys of the world yet,” Rangers left winger Chris Kreider said Saturday. “We gave ourselves a chance the other night against Edmonton, got away from our game. I don’t know if we got bored with doing the simple things.”

At 10-0-1, the Panthers have thus far made winning look simple. They are on the longest points streak to start a season since the Chicago Blackhawks opened 21-0-3 in 2012-13 and are one game shy of tying the franchise record for the longest points streak to start a season. Of Florida’s 10 wins, just three (overtime victories over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals) have been by fewer than two goals.

Entering Sunday, the Panthers led the NHL in goals scored (46) while surrendering the fifth-fewest goals (24). Among the four teams that have allowed fewer, only the Flames have played as many games as Florida.

On Saturday, the Panthers buried the Hurricanes — who won their first nine games — by scoring a trio of power-play goals on their way to taking a 4-0 lead in the first period. But Florida head coach Andrew Brunette said there was no extra meaning in decisively winning a potential playoff preview.

“I don’t really think it’s a statement game,” Brunette said. “There is (no such thing) in November. They don’t present trophies in November. It was a good test for our group and they responded to the challenge.”

–Field Level Media

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