It seemed utterly puzzling that this, of all games, was supposed to be a playoff preview.

Because in the midst of all the pomp and circumstance of a prime-time, nationally televised matchup, what happened Wednesday night at the Garden was anticlimactic.

The Rangers bled the Flyers out for a 3-1 win, allowing the Blueshirts to stroll off to Western Canada for a four-game trip while riding a five-game winning streak and holding a three-point cushion over Philadelphia for second place in the Metropolitan Division.

“I think both teams knew the importance of this game, as far as we’re battling for a playoff spot,” coach Alain Vigneault said, knowing the Flyers still have two games in hand. “We knew, for us, this was a real important game before we leave for this four-game road trip. And our guys were ready.”

The fact of the matter is, after the game, the Rangers (41-29-4) had almost nothing to say about the Flyers (38-27-7), because with eight games left, it hardly matters who they play. Philadelphia came in just one point back of Rangers for that second-place spot, and maybe if any Flyers beyond Wayne Simmonds had shown some punch, the animosity at least would have been visible.

Instead, in the waning seconds of the game, it was Simmonds alone hacking at the hands of Ryan McDonagh, a futile and all-too-late attempt to get under the skin of the man who is becoming the Rangers’ leader in all facets outside of the crease.