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Maurice, Panthers ready for pivotal Game 5: 'Desperation will be high'

Julio Aguilar / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Florida Panthers head coach Paul Maurice expects a sense of urgency to permeate Thursday's Game 5 as his team and the New York Rangers vie to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final.

"The desperation of finality, you can start to feel it," the bench boss said, per SNY's Julie Stewart-Binks. "Forty-eight hours from now, a very good team is going to be facing elimination. You can feel that. The desperation will be high for both teams."

The Panthers won Game 1 in a 3-0 shutout, but the Rangers turned the tide with two straight overtime victories despite getting outplayed by Florida in Game 3.

The Cardiac Cats responded with an overtime victory of their own Tuesday night to knot the series at two games apiece.

The loss was a particularly difficult one for New York. Mika Zibanejad committed a costly turnover early in the extra frame, and Blake Wheeler proceeded to take a penalty to stop Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov on the partial break. Sam Reinhart scored on the ensuing power play to win the contest.

Maurice said the team who loses Game 4 typically has an "emotional advantage" in the playoffs. Despite the nature of the Rangers' latest defeat, Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad said he doesn't view them as a ticked-off group.

"They're world-class players," he said. "I don't see frustration in them. I see guys chomping at the bit to make things happen."

Some of the Rangers' star players have been stymied by the Panthers through the first four games. Zibanejad and Chris Kreider have yet to register a point after being among the team's leaders through the opening two rounds, and they're sporting matching minus-3s.

Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette opted not to call out specific players on Thursday, only noting that the whole team needs to "play better."

"I definitely think there's room for improvement," he said. "We're playing too much defense and not enough offense."

No matter what the Rangers end up throwing at them in Game 5, Panthers rearguard Gustav Forsling said his squad can handle it.

"We're a very confident group," he said, according to's Jameson Olive. "We believe in each other. We know we're going to get the opportunities to score, so we just have to defend first."

Puck drops on Game 5 at 8 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden.

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