Rangers nip rival Panthers in thrilling shootout win

The Panthers represented a major test that the pre-trade-deadline Rangers failed twice.

Post reinforcements in a crucial stretch of the season, however, the Blueshirts finally passed to become the frontrunners for the Presidents’ Trophy.

Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin and scored in the shootout to make it happen for the Rangers, who rallied from an early two-goal deficit to capture a 4-3 victory over Florida and collect their 97th and 98th points of the season in front of an exuberant Madison Square Garden crowd Saturday night.

Adam Fox celebrates after scoring a second-period goal in the Rangers’ 4-3 shootout win over the Panthers. Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The circumstances were favorable for the Rangers. Florida was without several of their regular skaters, including Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad and Gustav Forsling, while also carrying a three-game losing streak into the matchup.

The same can be said for the Panthers, who were facing a Rangers team without three of their most physical players in Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren and Will Cuylle. It’s been three games without both Trouba and Lindgren, who are each recovering from lower-body injuries, and Cuylle was a healthy scratch on head coach Peter Laviolette’s orders.

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