Rangers continue to confound Flyers, pick up another matinee victory

Ryan Callahan notched his second hat trick in less than one calendar year on Saturday afternoon, and the New York Rangers continued their stranglehold on the Philadelphia Flyers thanks to a 5-2 victory.

“Obviously any time you get three goals, you’re excited, especially against a team that is so close to you in the standings,” Callahan said. “I had some pretty easy tap-in goals there so it wasn’t all me today.”

The Blueshirts, who lead the Atlantic Division by six points over their foes, improved to 5-0-0 against the Orange and Black this season and one victory away — potentially here on April 3 — from sweeping their first season series against Philly since 1971-72.

And how right Callahan was about the support he received. Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards aided that effort, as the former ripped off a goal and three assists while the latter contributed three helpers. Artem Anisimov also tallied to back a 31-save performance from Henrik Lundqvist that wasn’t nearly as easy as it looked.

Adding insult to injury, New York pumped home a season-high three goals on the advantage in just six attempts.

Wayne Simmonds totaled a goal and assist with Claude Giroux picking up the other score for the Flyers, who have lost four of five heading into an even larger test of mettle at Detroit on Sunday night. They will face a Red Wings squad intent on matching Philly’s 1975-76 mark of 20 consecutive home wins.

Sergei Bobrovsky got the call, but was clearly hung out to dry on all but one of the five goals he surrendered on just 26 shots. Peter Laviolette’s club fell to 4-8-1 in afternoon tilts this season.

“Obviously we have to stay out of the box, They have a good power play and they really showed it. We shot ourselves in the foot,” Giroux admitted. “We didn’t play that bad, but if we play them at 5-on-5, I think we probably win this game.”

The Rangers picked up an insurance tally with just under 6 1/2 minutes played in the third period, as once again an unmarked forward, this time Anisimov, got behind the defense untouched and was able to redirect a Derek Stepan feed past Bobrovsky in the high slot.

“I don’t like the way we came out and played at the start of the third period. That fourth goal really took the steam out of everything,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. “I mean, even before that they had three power play goals but this one really did the job. We let up two even-strength goals. The first one, we turned the puck over and on both we weren’t strong enough in our end.”

Callahan made it 5-2 and capped his trifecta when he circled behind the Philly net and was in the right place along the goal line to pick up the failed Richards pass to Carl Hagelin and lift it under the crossbar with 8:35 to play.

It momentarily brought the hosts to life in the person of Simmonds, who finally let the frustration boil over into dropping the gloves with the hulking Brian Boyle and fought to a draw. True Hell wasn’t unleashed until just over seven minutes remained, as Zac Rinaldo worked over the silent Brandon Dubinsky until the pair also decided to tussle. Rinaldo and Tom Sestito drew misconducts during the melee, but it ended up working in the visitors’ favor.

One more power play came the Flyers’ way as Gaborik was caught for tripping with 4:06 left but there was nothing left in the tank.

“So far this season we have been up for the task and we like this challenge of playing a team which is really good offensively, because we have to be smart all the time and hard on the puck,” Lundqvist admitted. “I think so far we have made good decisions and that has hurt them.”

Unlike their Madison Square Garden snooze job on Sunday, the Flyers came out in a scrappy mood early on despite Rangers shot advantage.

Sestito mixed it up with Stu Bickel but the home club picked up the extra minor just over eight minutes in. New York cashed in just seconds into the power play as Richards dished to Gaborik, who found Callahan near the goal line to the left of Bobrovsky for a sharp-angle shot which trickled inside the near post at 8:25.

But the Flyers equalized soon after they were given the game’s third power play. With Gaborik in the box for hooking, the hosts turned in their first sustained pressure in the Rangers’ zone. Two shifts after the advantage lapsed, Andrej Meszaros unleashed one of his trademark shots from the point and Simmonds, in his usual position staked out in front of the crease, tipped the puck past Lundqvist with 6:57 remaining in the first.

Giroux singlehandedly pulled the hosts even at 6:36 of the second period, as Simmonds hit the NHL’s second-leading scorer with a perfect pass up the right wing, and Giroux sailed in alone before pushing his own rebound past a prone Lundqvist at the right post, but Callahan registered New York’s third power-play score of the contest less than three minutes later by redirecting a Michael Del Zotto dish.

Nonetheless, the Rangers escaped to intermission with a one-goal lead thanks to yet another power-play score, as Gaborik was left alone at the inner edge of the left circle for a pretty top-shelf deflection of a Richards point offering at 16:40.

Notes: Saturday’s loss extended the Flyers’ regulation winless streak to the Rangers to seven games, the longest since a 13- game run (0-11-2) from February 24, 1971 to December 26, 1973…Callahan’s three-goal game was his first since exploding for a career-best four goals and five points in a 7-0 defeat of Philadelphia last March 6…Lundqvist improved to 21-10-3 against the Flyers…Philly fell to 13-9-5 on home ice…Ilya Bryzgalov was once again sidelined with the flu and Jason Bacashihua served as the backup…Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi led all players in ice time at 18:43…Flyers forward Jake Voracek left the game in the first period with what is being called an upper-body injury, but he will accompany the team to Detroit, per Paul Holmgren.