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SUNRISE, Fla. -- Blake Wheeler returned for the New York Rangers in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amerant Bank Arena on Tuesday.

Wheeler, who had not played since sustaining a lower-body injury on Feb. 15, moved into the lineup in place of Filip Chytil, who was a healthy scratch.

The 37-year-old skated at left wing on the fourth line with Barclay Goodrow and Matt Rempe, finishing the game with 9:18 of ice time. However, he was assessed the hooking penalty at 59 seconds of overtime that led to Sam Reinhart's winner at 1:12 for the Panthers.

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2. Game 5 will be in New York on Thursday.

"Yeah, I mean, he's jammed up there on that call and just worked backward," Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said of the penalty. "But he came out and I thought he gave us some good minutes. It was a long road for him to get back and I thought he came in -- there were times where Goodrow, Rempe and Wheeler put it in the offensive zone and they actually stayed down there and were able to occupy some time and spend some minutes down there. So, for his first game back in a while I thought he was good."

Wheeler had been a full participant in practice since he was cleared for contact on May 13. He previously started skating on his own on April 19 and eventually joined practices in a red noncontact jersey before being cleared for contact.

"It speaks to the character of the man and who he is," Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. "We saw how hard he worked for the last three-plus months to come back and play and contribute to our team."

Panthers coach Paul Maurice said before the series began that he was hoping Wheeler would get a chance to play.

Maurice and Wheeler were together with the Winnipeg Jets for parts of nine seasons from 2014-21.

"One of my first games we're in Dallas and he got hit into the door on his shoulder blade and he crawled down the [tunnel]," Maurice said. "There's about five minutes left to go in the game. My trainer kind of gives me one of these (he's not coming back motions). Two and a half minutes later he's back. 'How is he back on the bench,' [I said] to the trainer. 'I have absolutely no idea,' [he said] to me. And he went out and played. I just said, 'You good?' He didn't say it, he just kind of shook his head. He nodded. He went out and closed the game out for us. So, he's a tough man. I've seen him play with a flu that, I mean, I don't know how he got through the game. So, inspirational leader in that part, tough as nails, and if there is a rehab program, if there's some work to be done for him to get healthier, better, faster, he's done it. He's wired right into that body and all the things that he can do."

Chytil played in the first three games of the conference final, including the previous two on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Jack Roslovic, who had been on the top line prior to the past two games, started Game 4 back on that line with Zibanejad and Kreider.

New York is attempting to manage Chytil's usage after the 24-year-old missed more than six months with an upper-body injury he sustained Nov. 2.

He returned to the lineup in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Carolina Hurricanes on May 9. However, he did not play in Game 4 because of an illness, and he also didn't play in Games 5 and 6 even though he was skating in practice and at morning skates.

"This is just part of 'Fil's' coming back after such a long layoff and what we feel is best for him to continue to move forward for us," Laviolette said. "You're asking a lot for a guy that missed six months to come back in and get up to that speed. This is part of the plan for him."