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With Panarin back on ice, Rangers blank Bruins

BOSTON — Chris Kreider scored his team-leading 14th goal, Artemi Panarin had an assist in his first game back since leaving the team, and the New York Rangers beat the Boston Bruins 4-0 Saturday to halt a three-game losing streak.

Panarin left Feb. 22 after a Russian tabloid printed allegations from a former coach that he attacked a woman in Latvia almost a decade ago, which he denies. His return clearly provided a lift for New York.

“You put him in the lineup and then it looks like we have more swagger,” Rangers coach David Quinn said.

The Rangers went 4-5 while he was gone. Consistency has been a struggle, with and without Panarin, for the Rangers this season. And even with him back in the lineup, the playoffs could be a reach. Boston owns the fourth spot in the East currently, with 32 points, and have a game in hand on the Rangers, who are seven points away.

But they looked sharp on Saturday. Keith Kinkaid stopped 18 shots for his first shutout since 2018. Ryan Strome, Pavel Buchnevich and K’Andre Miller each had a goal for New York, which lost 4-0 in Boston on Thursday. Mika Zibanejad added two assists and Kreider had one.

“It was definitely a huge boost getting him back,” Zibanejad said about Panarin. “Not only for the game but for the locker room.”

Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves for the Bruins, who have dropped eight of their last 12 games.

“You see a game like that and it’s: ‘Are we tired or are we out of shape?'” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “At the end of it, I think there’s a number of things. But it’s unacceptable, the effort has to be there everyday. That’s the most disappointing thing about today was the effort.”

The Rangers called the story about Panarin fabricated and designed to intimidate him for his political views against Russian President Vladimir Putin. His former coach in the Kontinental Hockey League, Andrei Nazarov, said he was motivated to speak about the alleged incident because he disagreed with Panarin’s criticism of the Russian government.

Playing in just his fourth game this season, the 31-year-old Kinkaid was hardly tested as the Rangers got to most of the loose pucks, limited the Bruins’ break-ins and ability to control the puck in the offensive zone.

At the end, a Rangers player could be heard yelling: “That a boy, Keith!”

Recalled from the taxi squad on March 6 when Igor Shesterkin was injured, Kinkaid played in relief Thursday, stopping all 13 shots. On Saturday, he saw just 11 on goal in the first two periods.

“I’m just happy to be able to get some NHL games again to prove myself,” he said, smiling.

Boston forward Jake DeBrusk, who had a goal Thursday after being benched and called out for his play this season by Cassidy, missed the game because he was in COVID-19 protocol.

Coming off a lackluster effort when they were decidedly outplayed on Thursday, the Rangers were ready from the start, hitting the Bruins early and controlled most of the first two periods.

“We’ve got to find a way to string a couple of these games together,” Zibanejad said.

Miller’s wrister from the right point ricocheted into the net off the far post, making it 1-0 just 3:06 into the game.

“I think right away we couldn’t sustain our game,” Boston forward Nick Ritchie said. “We couldn’t tilt the ice. It made for a long game.”

Kreider’s goal made it 2-0 in the second period when he one-timed Zibanejad’s pass from the right corner after the puck slid through the slot just past the stick of Jarred Tinordi‘s diving attempt to block it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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