Igor Shesterkin #31 of the Rangers looks on the Florida...

Igor Shesterkin #31 of the Rangers looks on the Florida Panthers celebrate their first goal of the second period against at Madison Square Garden on Monday, March 4, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The next time the Rangers play, they figure to have a different look to them, given that their next game is not until Saturday and the NHL trade deadline is Friday.

The played their last game before the deadline Monday night at Madison Square Garden against the team with the NHL’s best record, the Florida Panthers, a test they were excited to face.

The Rangers played the visitors dead even for two periods-plus, but the Panthers got a third-period goal by fourth-liner Ryan Lomberg and an empty-net goal by Anton Lundell and pulled out a 4-2 win that kept them atop the league in the overall standings.

Lomberg’s goal at 6:11 was something of a stunner — a long-range shot from the wing that might have taken a slight deflection off the skate of Jacob Trouba and seemed to fool goaltender Igor Shesterkin (three goals allowed on 28 shots).

“I think once they got the lead, they clogged down the neutral zone,’’ Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “We needed to move the puck quicker and put it behind them and get in the forecheck. I don’t think we did a very good job of that once they got the lead. We didn’t get in there and sustain pressure.’’

The victory was the fifth in a row for Florida (42-16-4). The Rangers (40-18-4), who could have pulled into a tie with the Panthers for first overall with a regulation win, lost for the third time in their last four games (1-2-1).

Even though they failed to win the game, in the bigger picture, it wasn’t a bad performance by a team trying to get its game sharpened up in time for the playoffs.

“You look at tonight, that’s a couple of really good teams going at it,’’ defenseman Ryan Lindgren said. “They had their chances, we had ours . . . We’ve played a lot of good teams lately, and we went toe-to-toe with every one of them, and it seems like we’re playing good hockey right now, which is good.’’

The next time the Rangers face Florida, on March 23 at the Garden, they should have some reinforcements in their lineup, presuming general manager Chris Drury makes a trade or two to bring in some help. He’s thought to be seeking a right wing for the top line and a third-line center.

One of the things the Rangers did well was score two power-play goals in four opportunities. That’s a good thing, given that their power play has been sputtering for quite some time and had managed only two goals in the last 22 opportunities before Monday.

“I thought our first one tonight wasn’t great, but after that, I thought we took it up and got good looks, obviously scored one,’’ Vincent Trocheck said. “It seems like that power play is gonna be big; the PK’s going to be big. So we’ve got to make sure that we’re capitalizing.’’

The Rangers’ first power-play goal came from Will Cuylle at 16:39 of the first period and gave them a 1-0 lead. The goal came at the end of the power play, just as the door was opening after Matthew Tkachuk’s roughing penalty.

Florida took a 2-1 lead in the second on a pair of goals by Sam Reinhart in a span of 2:45. He scored on a power play at 10:11 and at even strength at 12:56. Both goals were assisted by Aleksander Barkov.

After Lundell got a four-minute high-sticking penalty against Braden Schneider, Chris Kreider tied it at 2-2 at 15:26 of the second period when he got the rebound of a shot by Trocheck and slipped it in from a sharp angle for his 31st goal.

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