A four-goal first period for the New York Rangers helped them hold on for a 5-3 win over the Flyers tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.
Five different players scored for New York, while Henrik Lundqvist picked up his career-best 39th win of the season — six of them coming at the expense of the Orange and Black.
“The last 15 minutes of the first period wasn’t good at all,” Kimmo Timonen said. “A couple of bad breakdowns in the defensive end. The start wasn’t that bad.”
Ryan McDonagh, Brian Boyle, Artem Anisimov lit the lamp in the opening 20 minutes as the Rangers locked up both the Atlantic Division and top seed in the Eastern Conference. It was the Blueshirts’ first division crown since taking the inaugural Atlantic title in 1994.
For Philadelphia, Claude Giroux had another three-point performance with a trio of assists and Jakub Voracek had a goal and an assist for a second straight multi-point performance in the loss. Ilya Bryzgalov returned from a three-game absence and allowed four goals against on 11 shots in the first period and five total goals on 24 shots.
“They had some power plays, some five-on-threes,” said Bryzgalov of the Rangers’ huge first period. “It seemed like in the first period there was always a shot and a rebound.”
New York’s power-play unit entered the game ranked 27th in the NHL with a 15.1 percent conversion rate, but they didn’t play like it tonight. The Blueshirts converted on three of their six man advantages, which played a huge role in their sixth and final victory over the Flyers this regular season.
Lundqvist continued his strong play against Philly with his 37-save performance tonight. Although he allowed three goals against, his highest for any game against the Flyers this season, Lundqvist also made the most saves in any of his games against the Orange and Black. After his team gave him a huge lead in the first period, Lundqvist held on for the win making 13 saves on 14 shots in the final stanza.
“There were times where I wanted to say, ‘I’m outta here.’ But I got through it,” Lundqvist said about the third period after he was hit in the arm by a shot in the second stanza. ”We’ll see how it is in a couple of days, see how it feels. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to go, but it was tough.”
After one of their better starts over the last few games, the Flyers found themselves down by four goals following the first 20 minutes of regulation.
Although the Flyers put on some of the early pressure, the Rangers struck first with a tally from McDonagh. Brad Richards moved the puck to Marian Gaborik behind the net, who held the biscuit for a second before he threw it to the slot for McDonagh. Charging in from the point, he one-timed a shot by Bryzgalov for a 1-0 New York lead 6:25 into the game.
Minutes later, after a power play due to a Marc Staal holding minor and a fight between Zac Rinaldo and Brandon Prust, Boyle improved the Blueshirts lead to two at the 11:30 mark. McDonagh let go off a shot from the top of the circles that Bryzgalov was able to stop, but slid out of position while doing so. Due to a rebound in the slot, Boyle was able to throw a shot on net that hit a sprawled Bryzgalov’s leg pad and in for his 10th of the year.
Later in the stanza, following Jody Shelley’s right hook to Mike Rupp’s head to drop the Rangers’ enforcer to the ice, Artem Anisimov scored and drew three minors out of the Flyers in the process.
Bursting into the Flyers’ zone, Anisimov was hooked by Marc-Andre Bourdon at the blue line and slashed by Pavel Kubina after he beat Bryzgalov for his 15th tally of the season. Since Anisimov’s goal brought Jaromir Jagr out of the box, Bourdon’s minor and Kubina’s double minor led to a two-man advantage for two minutes.
It didn’t take the Rangers long to make it 4-0, as Callahan deposited his 29th goal of the season 36 seconds after Anisimov’s tally. Off a rebound from a Richards’ shot, Callahan slammed home the loose puck in the slot on a play where Bryzgalov didn’t stand a chance to give New York a healthy lead after one period.
In the second period, the Flyers finally came alive, but were only able to trim the Rangers’ advantage to three.
Nearly 13 minutes into the middle period, Voracek’s persistence led to his 18th tally of the season and a 4-1 deficit for Philly. Leading an offensive rush into New York’s zone, Giroux tailed off towards the boards before he passed to the point for a Timonen blast. Timonen’s shot led to a rebound in the slot that Voracek put back on Lundqvist immediately. Although New York’s goalie stopped Voracek’s first shot, the Flyers’ forward released another shot towards the Rangers’ cage that hit off of Staal’s skate and through Lundqvist’s five-hole.
In the final minute of the period Gaborik registered the Rangers’ third power-play goal of the contest to restore his team’s four-goal lead. After Anton Stralman threw a pass from the boards to the slot, Gaborik caught the pass on his backhand and quickly switched it to his forehand before he ripped a wrister by Bryzgalov’s glove for his 41st of the season with 51 seconds left.
Rangers blueliner Dan Girardi was only in the box for six seconds due to his holding minor when Simmonds found a loose puck in the crease and dunked it home for his 28th of the year. Giroux one-timed a cross-ice pass from Voracek to force Lundqvist to roll across the crease to make a sprawling save. Although New York’s netminder made the initial save, he left the puck in the middle of the crease for Simmonds to backhand home with just seven seconds left in the second.
Philly’s lone goal in the third period appeared to have come from an unlikely source, but was, in fact, credited to a likely suspect. In the midst of their final stanza dominance, where they out shot New York 14-5, Andreas Lilja walked in on Lundqvist and picked the corner — with Hartnell somehow getting a piece of it — for his 37th of the year.
One more power play passed by the wayside thereafter, and though Bryzgalov was pulled twice in the final two-plus minutes, the lone good chance came when Lundqvist snapped up a Simmonds redirect in the final three seconds.
With just two more games on the slate, the South Philly squad looks to grab a pair of points against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center.
Notes: This is the first time since the 1971-1972 campaign the Rangers have swept the season series with the Flyers…New York’s victory gave it 51 on the season, one away from the franchise record set in the Stanley Cup season of 1993-94…After he posted a goal and two assists on Sunday, Giroux recorded back-to-back three-point performances for the first time in his NHL career with his three-assist game tonight…Now with 92 points, Giroux is the first Flyer to record 90 points in a season since Mark Recchi posted 91 in 1999-2000…Voracek has four goals and three assists in his last three games…Rinaldo’s fight in the first period was his 15th of the season, which is the most in the NHL by a rookie. The bout was also Prust’s 20th of the season, which is the most in the NHL…After not dressing for the Flyers’ last seven games, Shelley had five PIMs in 3:56 TOI…Tonight’s first period was the third time all season the Flyers have allowed four goals in one period. The other two times were the first period of their 6-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on December 17th and third period of 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators on January 8…Lilja hasn’t scored since January 2, 2011, for Anaheim against Chicago, a span of 68 games…The Rangers blocked 20 shots to the Flyers’ nine…Tonight was the second time all season the Rangers scored three power-play goals against the Flyers in a game. The first was in their 5-2 win on February 11th…McDonagh snapped a 24-game goal drought with his tally in the first period. Anisimov’s goal in the first period ended a 10-game goal drought…The Flyers dropped to 0-6-0 against the Rangers and to 11-10-2 against the Atlantic Divison this season (NYR 0-6-0, PIT 4-1-0, NJD 3-2-1, NYI 4-1-1)…The Flyers dropped to 46-25-9. They were 46-23-11 after 80 games last season.