Displaying his second strong performance in as many games against the Flyers this season, Henrik Lundqvist led the Rangers to a 4-2 win on Friday, making 28 saves in the process.
Marian Gaborik scored the game-winner very early in the third period as both Stu Bickel and Michael Del Zotto had two-assist games.
Ilya Bryzgalov made 20 saves on 24 Rangers’ shots but was victimized by two unlucky bounces, while Jaromir Jagr failed to record a point in his first game back at Madison Square Garden since joining the Flyers in the off-season.
As expected, this game between the two teams playing in The Winter Classic was intense and defensive, as highlighted in the first 20 minutes.
Following a strong hit from Ruslan Fedotenko on Marc-Andre Bourdon halfway through the period, Zac Rinaldo decided to lay on top of Tim Erixon behind Lundqvist’s net after the defender laid a hit on him. Standing up for his teammate, Bickel came over to push Rinaldo for a bit as the two worked their way from behind the net and into Lundqvist’s crease.
Adding on to the violence in the opening stanza, Anton Stralman delivered a blow to Matt Read in the neutral zone minutes after the Rinaldo/Bickel scrum. As the Flyers’ rookie forward carried the puck across the red line, Stralman put a hard hip-check on Read knocking him into the boards.
Shortly after Stralman’s hit, Tom Sestito nailed Erixon in the corner to Lundqvist’s left keeping the game’s ferocity high.
Moments after Sestito’s check, Wayne Simmonds was called for holding on Carl Hagelin. After colliding with the Rangers’ forward along the boards, Simmonds stayed tied up with Hagelin longer than the officials appreciated. The infraction gave New York their first power play of the game.
The Flyers managed to kill off the man advantage, but it concluded with a scare as a Del Zotto shot rang off the crossbar as the final seconds of the power play ticked off the clock.
Still hungry for a fight after Steve Ott declined both his invitations on Wednesday night, Bourdon finally dropped the gloves with Brandon Prust late in the first period.
After holding his ground for most of the bout, a Prust punch caught Bourdon causing the defender to put his hand over his mouth, which resulted in the conclusion of the fight that took place in the corner to Bryzgalov’s right.
Mere seconds into the middle period, Brad Richards had an opportunity to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Jumping on a loose puck in the slot, Richards ripped a shot that Bryzgalov didn’t need to worry about blocking as it went high over the cage.
The Flyers then got themselves in trouble, going two men down after Kimmo Timonen was called for a high stick on Prust and Harry Zolnierczyk committed a hooking minor on Richards.
But the only New York chance for those 35 seconds came when Bryzgalov stoned Gaborik on the doorstep to keep the game scoreless.
As the Flyers received one of their skaters back on to the ice, Ryan McDonagh ripped a shot through traffic that rang off the crossbar. Showing patience with the puck at the top of the faceoff circle to Bryzgalov’s right, McDonagh finally released a wrister that beat every Flyer, but couldn’t cross the goal line as it hit iron and stayed out of the net.
The Flyers killed off the remaining time in Zolnierczyk’s minor and received a power play of their own as Richards was flagged for hooking at the 6:54 mark of the period.
The Orange and Black failed to convert on their second power-play chance of the period despite Jaromir Jagr having a chance from below the circles.
After exchanges of odd-man rushes, it was an astounding deflection by Derek Stepan that gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
As Bickel released a wrister from the blue line, Stepan, who was standing at the very bottom of the faceoff circle to Bryzgalov’s left, managed to raise his stick and deflect the puck centimeters below the crossbar and past the stunned netminder from an obscure angle for his eighth goal of the season 10:18 into the middle period.
Following the goal, the line of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, and Jagr produced strong offensive pressure for the Flyers before another sequence of odd-man rushes for both teams finished with Sestito dropping the gloves with Brian Boyle right in front of Lundqvist.
Winning the bout, Sestito gave his team a boost as the Flyers produced a couple of scoring chances immediately following the fight. The best chance came on a Matt Carle wrister from the bottom of the faceoff circle to Lundqvist’s right, which blew by the outside of the net and high.
Naturally, after producing a handful of wonderful scoring chances, the Rangers came right down the ice and extended their lead to two goals thanks to a redirection from Fedotenko.
Moving his way in front of Bryzgalov, Fedotenko tipped a Bickel shot from the point with his backhand and past the goalie’s left ear hitting the back crossbar. Play continued for several seconds, but after an officials’ review, Fedotenko’s goal stood.
Thanks to the pair of redirection goals, the Flyers headed into the final 20 minutes down 2-0.
The Rangers extended their lead before two minutes elapsed in the third period as Gaborik scored on a breakaway.
Gaining control of the puck after a faceoff in his defensive zone, Stralman released a pass up ice to spring Gaborik for a breakaway on Bryzgalov. Putting the puck past Bryzgalov on the netminder’s blocker-side, Gaborik celebrated his 21st goal of the season by tumbling to the ice and sliding into the corner, wincing in pain before he finally stood up to his skates.
Down by three goals with only 18:12 left in the game, the Flyers managed to draw a penalty to send them on their third power play of the game. Erixon was nailed for holding Jakub Voracek behind Lundqvist’s net.
Lundqvist denied another two shots while the Flyers were on the man advantage to keep the Rangers’ lead at three goals as only 15:41 remained in the game.
Artem Anisimov was kind enough to give the Flyers another power-play chance as he went to the box for holding just five minutes after Erixon’s minor ended. With this chance, the Flyers finally got on the scoreboard.
Letting go of a blast from the blue line, Andrej Meszaros’ second goal in as many games managed to fly untouched through traffic in front to cut the Rangers’ deficit to two goals with 9:38 left.
After missing on a scoring opportunity, the Flyers needed to kill off a Max Talbot tripping call to stay in the game, but came up short.
Just 15 seconds into the power play, Ryan Callahan showed his quick hands as he moved a puck that was in his skates into the Flyers’ net in a matter of moments before either Braydon Coburn or Timonen could get over in time to deny the shot.
Callahan’s 13th goal of the season came on a rebound from a Dan Girardi shot and put the Rangers ahead by three goals with only 5:56 remaining.
Not giving up, the Flyers cut the lead to two goals thanks to JVR ending his nine-game goalless streak.
Deflecting a Meszaros’ shot from the point, van Riemsdyk put his stick on a puck to deflect it into Lundqvist’s pads before eventually plowing the puck into the net on a rebound through a mass of bodies in front of the crease. After a brief officials’ review, which was pretty much unnecessary, the Flyers’ faced another two-goal deficit with 2:10 left.
Pulling Bryzgalov, the Flyers offensive pressure increased vastly, but they couldn’t find the net as the time ticked off for a 4-2 win for the Rangers.
It wasn’t that the Flyers didn’t get any scoring chances, it was the fact they just had great difficulty beating Lundqvist tonight.
In their first game against the Blueshirts, the Flyers had minimal scoring chances as they didn’t force Lundqvist into many difficult saves. Tonight, however, the Flyers had more chances, but couldn’t find a way to beat Lundqvist with the exceptions of Meszaro’s blast through traffic and JVR’s garbage goal. The fact the Flyers have only scored two goals in two games against New York this season should raise some concern as it’s likely Philly would play the Rangers at some point in the playoffs.
In addition to Lundqvist’s goaltending, another concern for Philly when playing the Rangers is Giroux’s production. In two games this year, Giroux hasn’t registered a point against New York. It doesn’t seem like Giroux’s pointless bid against the Rangers is the elite forward’s inability to capitalize on chances, but rather he is having chances taken away from him or isn’t capable of producing a chance at all. On most nights, Giroux will register a point if not more, or at the very least go pointless with a lot of extremely close scoring chances. Against the Rangers, however, Giroux looks as though he has just been shut down by New York’s blue line.
Notes: Lundqvist put together a shutout string of 193:55 against Philly at Madison Square Garden, the longest by any goaltender in Flyers history…It snapped the previous best of 182:09 by Jacques Plante of St. Louis in 1969-70…The Flyers have now dropped four straight against the Rangers with their last victory coming from a 4-2 win in New York on February 20…The Flyers went 89:22 without allowing a goal before Stepan’s tally halfway through the second period…Meszaros led the Flyers’ in points tonight with two (a goal and an assist). His third period goal gave him goals in back-to-back games for the first time since he tallied goals in games on January 18-20…Danny Briere missed the game with a bruised hand…Timonen’s high-sticking minor in the second ended a personal seven-game streak without a penalty…Andreas Lilja and Zolnierczyk both finished minus-2 tonight…The Flyers dropped to 0-2-0 on the season against the Rangers and 3-2-1 against the Atlantic Division (NYR 0-2-0, PIT 1-0-0, NJD 1-0-1, NYI 1-0-0).