The New York Rangers concluded their four game home stand against the divisional rival Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night. They’d be doing so without Brad Richards, still feeling some soreness after the vicious hit from behind by the Sabres Patrick Kaleta on Tuesday, which earned Kaleta a five game suspension. Michael Haley was called up from the Connecticut Whale to replace Richards in the lineup. This was the third meeting of the season between these two clubs, splitting the first two with each team winning on home ice.
Contrary to the other night against the Sabres, there was a lot going on in the opening period and as some fans were first getting to their seats with hot dogs and beer, the Rangers were on the power play as Kimmo Timonen was called for holding 1:09 into the game. The Rangers, who have struggled much of the early part of the season with the man advantage, have come alive in that department lately having scored a pair against the Sabres. Twenty-one seconds in, Marian Gaborik fed a pass to Derek Stepan who threw one across to Ryan Callahan cutting through the slot and the Rangers’ captain roofed one over Ilya Bryzgalov for his sixth of the season giving the hometown team a 1-0 lead. Three straight games with a power play goal for the Blueshirts, their fourth in that span.
Just over five minutes later Stu Bickel was sent off for elbowing Bruno Gervais, giving the Flyers their first crack on the power play. As the Rangers power play had been improving, so has their penalty kill, not allowing a power play in the last three games. However that percentage would take a hit as some beautiful tic-tac-toe passing by Philadelphia, Jakub Voracek to Claude Giroux, across to Wayne Simmons in the low slot and he redirected it past Henrik Lundqvist to even the score at one. It was Simmons tenth goal on the season and the Rangers first power play goal against in the last four games.
Just under ten minutes later with Rick Nash in the box, Darroll Powe made a risky play as he skated toward the blue line near the Rangers’ bench in an attempt to chip the puck out. His gamble failed as the Flyers kept the puck in the zone, the pass down low went to Voracek and Powe’s man Timonen was left open in front. Voracek fed him a pass and his initial shot was stopped by Lunqvist but Voracek followed it up and knocked in the rebound, his tenth goal in the 2013 campaign giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead.
As the final second ticked down it appeared as though the road team would skate into the locker room with that 2-1 lead, but the Rangers captain had other ideas. In what can only be described as an ESPN Sportscenter type goal, on an odd man rush Ryan McDonagh fed a head man pass to Ryan Callahan who skated down left wing. As the Flyers defenseman went down to block the shot, Callahan held on to the puck, skated around him, got Bryzgalov to go down, and slid the puck past his left pad and into the net tying the game with 41 seconds remaining in the period. It was Callahan’s team leading seventh goal. As Callahan pumped his fist high in the sky, the Rangers had new life.
The second period saw the action slow down a bit. Both teams were throwing their bodies in front of the puck blocking numerous shot attempts. Scott Hartnell skated into the Rangers zone and was left alone in the slow. He received a pass a fired a wicked slapshot that Lundqvist saw all the way. It was the Flyers first shot of the period with almost half the time gone in the second frame. Much of the period the Rangers held territorial advantage keeping the pressure on Philadelphia. But Bryzgalov made a few saves from shot down low and his counterpart had a big stop Brayden Schenn who took a whack at a bouncing puck. The second period concluded just as the first one had, even at two.
As was the case in the opening period, the Rangers got to work early in the third, this time at even strength. With almost three minutes gone by, Lundqvist made a save on Schenn and the rebound was gathered up by Dan Girardi who fired a pass up to Nash, recognizing he had slipped past the Flyers’ defenseman Erik Gustafsson. Rick Nash skated down left wing and as only he can, found a slight opening between Bryzgalov’s right arm and the post and wristed a shot into the open area giving the Rangers a 3-2 advantage. It was Nash’s sixth goal in his debut season on Broadway.
There was a brief cause for concern as Derek Stepan had trouble getting to the bench after blocking a shot off his skate. Stepan shook it off and returned for his next shift. However, the Rangers did suffer an injury that had everyone in the organization cringe when they saw the incident. Mid way through the period, Kimmo Timonen took a shot that was deflected by Jakub Voracek and went straight up catching Rangers’ defenseman Marc Staal in the face, hitting him in the right eye. Staal immediately fell to the ice kicking his skates against the ice, rocking his head left and right holding both hands against his face. As teammates and trainers rushed to assist Staal, there was blood visibly dripping onto the ice. Staal, who was not wearing a visor, was taken to the locker room to be examined by team doctors. Staal obviously did not return and there was no word after the game as to his condition and how many games, if any, he will miss. When Staal was hit, Voracek raised his arms signaling to stop play noticing that his opponent was injured, a classy move by Jakub Voracek. In the heat of the battle, it’s refreshing to see players showing admiration and respect for one another.
Bryzgalov made two key saves on the Rangers power play to keep the Flyers deficit at one goal. With just under twelve minutes into the final frame, the Flyers made a bad change as Kimmo Timonen was late getting over. Ryan Callahan fed a pass to a streaking Rick Nash who skated down left wing, put a move on Bryzgalov, and as the Flyers goaltender dropped to his knees, Nash, who was being hooked, skated past Bryzgalov and slid the puck into a wide open net on the delayed penalty giving the Rangers a 4-2 cushion. It was Nash’s seventh goal of the season, tying him with Callahan for the team lead. All seven of Nash’s goals have come in the third period, and it was his fourth goal in the last three games since returning from a three game absence with an upper body injury.
In the final seconds the Flyers, with the extra attacker, threw everything at the net, getting a few chances down low on stuff in attempts, but Lundqvist and the Rangers defense kept the puck out securing the 4-2 win. The Rangers have now won ten of their last eleven against the Flyers dating back to 2011 and have won six straight against their division foe on home ice. The win leapfrogs the Rangers into eighth place in the east, one point ahead of the Flyers, trailing the New Jersey Devils by one point for the seventh spot. It was the third straight victory for the Blueshirts.
The Rangers next game is Thursday night as they make the trip east to take on another division rival the New York Islanders in Uniondale. Puck drops at 7pm.
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