It took some long-awaited nerve and some long-lost heart and guts, but the Philadelphia Flyers’ season-opening three-game losing skid is finally over.
Playing without Danny Briere (wrist) for the fourth game in a row, without Brayden Schenn who was lost to a one-game suspension, and Scott Hartnell who is out anywhere from one to two months with a broken toe, the hosts scraped together a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday.
Jakub Voracek netted the deciding goal in the second period and Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 18-of-19 shots Wayne Simmonds provided the other score for the Flyers, who had dropped the first three games of their truncated schedule and had never before lost four games in regulation to begin any season.
“I don’t know exactly what it means to say ‘Flyers hockey’ but I like the way the team played tonight and I think we deserved the win tonight,” offered Bryzgalov. “Guys played unbelievable tonight and the team looked sharp in the crease tonight. There was great sacrifice made with guy blocking the shots, and nobody cheats. I can’t say enough words it was just a great game.”
Philadelphia also halted an eight-game losing streak to their division rivals, their longest since a franchise-worst 10-game skid in the early 1970s.
Taylor Pyatt produced the lone goal for the Rangers, who were coming off a 4-3 overtime win against Boston on Wednesday and fell to 1-3 thus far. Henrik Ludqvist played well in defeat, making 31 saves.
The key sequence for the hosts came just past the midway point of the third period, with the killing off of a full two minutes of a two-man disadvantage.
Bryzgalov capped the 3-on-5 with a slick glove stop of a Rick Nash one-timer, while his penalty killers controlled the flow for the remaining 1:45 of the 5-on-4 Rangers’ power play.
“There were a couple of unfortunate penalties there and you never want to deal with five-on-threes but you certainly don’t want to deal with them for two minutes,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. “Guys did a really good job executing and blocking shots and we got a couple of big saves when we needed it.”
It was an effort worthy of a standing ovation — the first in the building for on-ice play since a Game 1 overtime win against the Devils back in late April. And it came at a crucial juncture since Pyatt’s tap-in off a Marian Gaborik pass at the right side on a New York power play at the 1:39 mark of the third period pulled the visitors to within 2-1.
Lundqvist wasn’t pulled for an extra skater until 66 seconds remained, but the visitors couldn’t muster any quality chances around the Philly crease.
Even better than a close win over a bitter rival was the news during the game that reinforcements will arrive in the person of Mike Knuble, who will be coming back to the club on a one-year contract, pending the passing of a physical on Friday.
Lundqvist shined from the outset, as the hungry hosts pelted him with 11 first-period shots. Bryzgalov was equally good on five New York opportunities.
The Flyers finally solved Lundqvist with 8:07 remaining in the second period as a left-point shot by Grossmann found the shin pad of Simmonds for a redirection score.
It was 2-0 for the hosts on a power play just over four minutes later when
Voracek emerged from a goalmouth scramble with a backhander into an open net from the right post.
“I know for me personally, I felt pretty good. I felt like my positioning was pretty good, and I was reading the game better. I’m starting to feel better and better,” said Lundqvist, calm in another loss. “In the end, you really want to get the win to really feel good about yourself and your game. When I look at the things I can control, it’s definitely a step in the right direction for me.”
Notes: Philadelphia’s last win against New York was a 4-2 decision at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 20, 2011…The Flyers’ last home win over the Rangers was a 4-1 triumph on Dec. 18, 2010…The Blueshirts played without forward Arron Asham who is dealing with a groin injury, and scratched both forward Chris Kreider and defenseman Matt Gilroy… Philly defenseman Andrej Meszaros departed the game in the third period and did not return. He left the arena in a harness holding his left shoulder…Simmonds’ goal ended his club’s scoreless drought of 126:56 dating back to the second period of Sunday’s 5-2 loss in Buffalo.