With each slide and fist pump, with each dominating third period, with each sign of indelible talent, Rick Nash endears himself to the Garden faithful like few other superstars in the recent past.

Last night, under the bright lights of Broadway, against a fierce and streaking Flyers team and without injured star center Brad Richards, Nash took over in the final 20 minutes and scored two goals en route to a Rangers 4-2 triumph.

“I just start smiling,” said goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 23 stops to stifle the Flyers. “It feels so good to have a player like that on the team that can be the difference almost every night. He’s going to be huge for us. We have a lot of guys that can step up, but he brings it to another level.”

Nash was a sight to behold, but one that could not completely overcome the shock and morbid silence that engulfed the Garden with 14:15 remaining in the third, when stalwart defenseman Marc Staal was hit with the puck just above his right eye. It came off a hard slap shot from Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, deflected into his face by Jakub Voracek.

Staal went to the ice and squirmed around in pain, the blood dripping from his face and painting the ice like a nightmarish Jackson Pollock.

“You could feel it take the life out of the bench and the whole crowd,” said captain Ryan Callahan, who had the team’s first two goals in a game that was tied 2-2 going into the third. “It’s a scary moment.”

There was no update from the team on Staal, who skated off the ice under his own power accompanied by trainer Jim Ramsay.

In to revive everyone came Nash, who in his three games since returning from injury has four goals and two assists as the Rangers (11-8-2) have reeled off three straight wins. All of Nash’s seven goals this have come in the third period.

“It shows he’s a big-time player,” Callahan said. “Coming over from Columbus [in an offseason trade], where he didn’t really see any playoffs, it shows he can play under as much pressure as there is and he can play when the game is on the line.”