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Rangers’ failure to convert on big chances proves costly

Perhaps there was some bad vibes left in the Garden from Sunday’s Game 7 loss between the Knicks and the Pacers.

It’s hard to say which of the Rangers’ close calls kept them awake late Wednesday night and into the early hours of Thursday morning.

Because there were several such failures, and after a 3-0 loss to the Panthers, they were all worth lamenting.

In the second period of Game 1, when the Rangers lost 3-0 to the Panthers, Sergei Bobrovsky saved a shot by Mika Zibanged. AP

The Rangers didn’t have many shots on goal in the game (23), but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have chances, with their biggest coming in the final minutes of the second period.

Artemi Panarin carried the puck into the Florida zone and passed it to Adam Fox, who fed Mika Zibanejad in the office (dot on the left).

Zibanejad, a skilled player, fired a low, hard shot into the right goal post of Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, but Bobrovsky knocked the shot away just moments before the horn sounded.

The play came off the Rangers’ only power play in the first two periods, with Bobrovsky’s save keeping the Panthers up 1-0.

The chance came just three minutes after the Rangers had finished an uneasy stretch in the second period in which they went nearly 15 minutes without a shot on goal.

The final shot of the period came at 18:05, and the next one after that came off the stick of Fox, who dumped the puck in front of the Panthers net and Bobrovsky appeared to miss it as Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere was on his doorstep to swat home the rebound.

In the Rangers’ Game 1 loss, Braden Schneider got a brace after hitting the post on a breakaway with defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky guarding him. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Bobrovsky spotted the puck at the last moment and covered it.

The Rangers’ scoring chances started pretty early, with the first shot coming less than five minutes into the game when Vincent Trocheck’s stick exploded onto Bobrovsky’s mask with such force that it blew off and he appeared momentarily stunned, ripping the goalie’s mask off and briefly starting the playoffs.

With just over six minutes left in the first period, Lafreniere took a feed from Panarin and took a sneaky shot past former Rangers defenseman Niko Mikkola, but Bobrovsky made the save.

Sergei Bobrovsky made a save on Jacob Trouba in the third period of the Rangers’ Game 1 loss. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Three minutes after that chance, the Panthers took a 1-0 lead on a goal from Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk’s left-handed shot was intercepted by Fox and scored by Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin with 3:34 left in the first period.

That was when the Rangers suffered their worst break of the night. On a breakaway, defenseman Braden Schneider rattled a laser off the right post, beating Bobrovsky with 2:19 left in the first inning.

The Rangers had another break chance less than a minute into the second period when Will Quill slipped in solo to Bobrovsky and was stoned by the netminder’s pad.

In the second period of the Rangers’ Game 1 loss, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped Will Quill’s shot. Jason Szens, The New York Post

A minute after Quill’s shot was stopped, Trocheck received a pass from Jack Roslovic, but it was intercepted by Bobrovsky. A minute later, Lafreniere, who has shown improvement after a great postseason, forced Bobrovsky to take a free shot, but Bobrovsky bounced off the glass and shot high.

That was the story of the night for the Rangers, who surrendered valuable home-ice advantage to Florida and are preparing for a crucial Game 2 on Friday night for the Blueshirts.

Insult turned to injury as Rangers desperately sought an equalizer.

With 7:15 left in the game, Rangers center Alexander Wennberg had two close-range chances on goal, but both were stoned. One of the few scrambles in front of Florida’s net was a missed opportunity for Wennberg, who hit Lafreniere’s shot off the post.

The Rangers attempted a power play shortly after, but it failed, followed by a Crusher own goal when the puck hit Lafreniere’s stick while trying to clear a Carter Verhaeghe shot with 3:48 left in the half. Verhaeghe was credited with a goal after collecting the puck after Shesterkin failed to clear the ball.

The Panthers also scored an empty-net goal, proving they are not afraid to play on the road, even at historic Madison Square Garden. They are 5-1 on the road this postseason, winning their last four games.

That makes Friday night an especially stressful night for the Rangers.

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