Artemi Panarin #10 of the Rangers celebrates his second period...

Artemi Panarin #10 of the Rangers celebrates his second period goal against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Mar. 23, 2024 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It’s been a hectic month for the Rangers, but on Sunday, they were able to rest, finally.

“We’re at the end of a long stretch of games in a short amount of days,’’ coach Peter Laviolette said late Saturday night after a 4-3 shootout victory over the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden. “The guys responded the entire time. They’re really deserving of a day off [Sunday]. Some rest, and then, actually, to have a practice [Monday], I think, is going to be good as well. But after that, there’s big games still coming.’’

On Tuesday, the Rangers will host the Flyers, the third-place team in the Metropolitan Division. On Wednesday, they will fly to Denver for a two-game trip that begins Thursday against the Avalanche and concludes Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes.

The games against Philadelphia and Colorado probably represent the two biggest tests remaining for the Rangers in the regular season, which has 11 games left, including seven at home.

Most of the hard work seems to be done, given what the schedule looked like the last two weeks.

The Rangers played nine games in a 15-day period, including huge matchups against Stanley Cup contenders Carolina, Winnipeg, Boston and Florida and one against potential first-round playoff opponent Tampa Bay. They passed their tests with flying colors, going 7-2 and moving into a tie with Vancouver for first place overall in the league.

Right now, other than injury concerns, the Rangers (47-20-4) look ready for the playoffs, which will start April 22.

Beating Florida — albeit in a shootout, which wouldn’t happen in the playoffs — meant a lot to the Rangers. It was their first win of the season against the Panthers, the pick by many as the best team in the Eastern Conference.

“Yeah, it’s a big win,’’ said center Vincent Trocheck, who had three assists. “These games are huge, late in the season, [to] get you geared up for the playoffs. This is the style of hockey we’re getting ready to play, so it goes a long way when you’re able to beat these teams like [Florida], Boston — teams that are at the top of the league.’’

The Rangers are getting excellent goaltending from Igor Shesterkin and Jonathan Quick, and as a team they are playing great defense in front of their goalies. Against Florida, they rallied from down 2-0 early in the second period, thanks to a power-play goal by Adam Fox (four goals and six assists in his last seven games), a momentum-changing shift from the fourth line and two more goals — plus the shootout winner — from red-hot Artemi Panarin (43 goals, 99 points).

The biggest concern has to be injuries. Jacob Trouba has missed nine games with a lower-body injury and fellow defenseman Ryan Lindgren has missed the last three with a left knee injury. Defenseman Erik Gustafsson was forced out of the Florida game in overtime after taking an unpenalized elbow from Florida forward Sam Reinhart. Gustafsson’s status for this week’s games is to be determined.

More Rangers


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months