Artemi Panarin was back, and boy, was he a sight for sore eyes for the Rangers.
After missing two games with a lower-body injury, Panarin returned to the lineup Thursday night when the Rangers played their first road game of the month, against the Flyers in Philadelphia.
And the 29-year-old Russian delivered in a big way for the goal-starved Rangers, setting up a goal by defenseman Brendan Smith in the third period and scoring the winner in the shootout as the Rangers beat the Flyers, 3-2, to snap a four-game losing streak.
"This has been a tough go for us, and losing can wear on you,’’ Rangers coach David Quinn said. "I don’t care how we needed to do it; I don’t care how pretty it looked . . . I don’t care how it came to fruition. But we needed two points and we got two points. And this group has always responded when we’ve been in situations like this.
"And maybe this wasn’t a Picasso,’’ he continued. "It certainly wasn’t the way we want to play or need to play if we’re going to have sustained success. But we’ve suffered our lumps and needed to dig deep and just find a way to win tonight. And we got two points, and that’s really all that matters.’’
Smith’s goal at 8:21 of the third period gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead. The Flyers, though, forced overtime when Joel Farabee scored with the goalie pulled and 1:14 left in regulation.
The Rangers, who outshot the Flyers 33-22, had the better of the chances in the three-on-three overtime, including a power play when Pavel Buchnevich was hooked by Nolan Patrick at 2:22.
Former Ranger Kevin Hayes took the first shot of the shootout, which Alexandar Georgiev saved, and Kaapo Kakko scored to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Sean Couturier scored to tie it and Panarin, who had eight shots on goal, put the Rangers ahead again. Georgiev, who stopped 20 of 22 shots in regulation and overtime, then made the save on James van Riemsdyk to seal the victory.
"I just thought we kept playing well,’’ Smith said when asked about the Rangers’ resilience. "Kaapo comes out and has a hell of a goal, and then Bread Man [Panarin] the same thing. And Georgie did a great job stoning them.
"And I just think that we didn’t break,’’ he continued. "That’s the biggest thing. I think with a lot of younger teams, you’ll see that, they’ll break after a team gets that tying goal. And you end up not getting both points. So it was good resilience. It was a good effort by the boys to respond and not get down on ourselves.
"And we needed that. We really needed that.’’
The Rangers played without defensemen Jacob Trouba (broken thumb) and K’Andre Miller (upper-body injury), usually their second defense pair. And for the second straight game, the Rangers played against a team coming off a COVID-19 stoppage.
The Flyers hadn’t played since a 7-4 win over Washington on Feb. 7.
Philadelphia played Thursday without six regulars, including center Claude Giroux, whose streak of consecutive games played ended at 328.
The game started badly for the Rangers when Adam Fox accidentally kicked in the Flyers’ first goal, credited to Nicolas Aube-Kubel 59 seconds into the first period. The Rangers then had a kill a penalty when Jack Johnson was called for tripping on his first shift at 2:47.
They did kill the penalty, and with Georgiev making some difficult saves to keep the Rangers from falling into a deeper hole, Colin Blackwell tied it at 1-1 at 3:24 of the second period with the Rangers’ first power-play goal in six games.