Ragan was introduced to bumper crowd ahead of the game but former Steeler Jonathan Zion spoilt the welcome party with a powerplay strike on 3.17.
But the lead lasted barely a minute before Jeff Legue levelled matters with a powerplay of his own a minute later.
Two goals in 90 seconds from Jade Galbraith and David Clarke gave the visitors a two-goal advantage going into the second session.
Tom Squires reduced the deficit midway through the game before two goals in less than a minute turned the game in Steelers' favour.
Goal poacher Joey Talbot latched on to a perfect pass from coach Ben Simon on 33.09 and, with Panthers rattled, Robert Dowd poked home Sheffield's fourth on 33.58.
A long-range powerplay strike from Legue two seconds from the end of the period capped a miserable session for the Panthers.
Both sides had chances to add to the tally but it took a fine finish by Neil Clark, with two minutes left on the clock, to complete the scoring.
Panthers have an early chance to gain revenge when the two sides meet again in Nottingham tonight (4pm).
Sylvain Cloutier hopes his Hull Stingrays team can strengthen their claims for a top-six Elite League spot despite being forced to play three games in as many nights this week.
Hull begin their unusual schedule with a trip to bottom club Newcastle Vipers tonight (5pm) before facing the same side again on home ice tomorrow (7pm). They then welcome Dundee Stars to Hull Arena on Wednesday (7pm).
Hull currently lie five points behind Braehead Clan – who pulled off a shock 4-2 win at leaders Belfast Giants last night – with four games in hand.
"There is going to be a lot of hockey played this week and it is a good chance for us to move further ahead of the teams below us and give ourselves some space," said Cloutier.
"Our goal is to catch Braehead and then make sure we keep sixth place and then look forward from there."