Saturday, October 11, 2008

Flyers Flounder in Season Opener

By Steven Lienert

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) -- Amidst the Phillies' playoff run, the sky falling on the Eagles and the economy in shambles, Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin dropped the puck on a new Flyers' season Saturday night.

The only problem was somebody forgot to tell the Flyers.

The New York Rangers scored four goals before the game was 17 minutes old.

Philadelphia rallied to pull within one just over five minutes into the third period but it couldn't net the equalizer as the Rangers held on for a 4-3 win at the Wachovia Center.

“We created some good opportunities to get back in the hockey game,” Flyers head coach John Stevens said. “The moral of this story is don't create such a hole and try to come back. We get into that third period either tied or ahead, that's the situation we want to be in.”

Instead, the Flyers found themselves playing catch-up all night long.

The night started well enough with Philly fans mostly booing Palin, but the evening was all downhill from there. Nikolai Zherdev and Blair Betts scored just over a minute apart to spot the Rangers a 2-0 lead before Frederik Sjostrom and Michal Rozsival added a tally each to give New York a 4-0 at the end of the first period.

“They came out like a team that's played four games already or three games and we just, I wouldn't say overwhelmed but I just think we weren't ready for the pace of play,” Flyers captain Mike Richards said. “(We) had a couple bad breaks, got behind the eight-ball early and then we started playing our game.”

True, but it was too little, too late. After giving up New York's fourth goal, Flyers starting goaltender Martin Biron was pulled in favor of backup Antero Niittymaki, who kept the Rangers off the scoreboard the rest of the way to give the Flyers a fighting chance to win the game.

Flyers left winger Scott Hartnell notched a short-handed goal and left winger Simon Gagne tallied his first of the season to pull Philadelphia within two after the second period.

And when Richards notched his first of the year just over five minutes into the third stanza, it seemed like there was too much time left for Rangers to keep the Flyers at bay.

“I thought in the second and third periods we did a lot better things,” Richards said. “(We) started taking over the game, just a little late.”

Philadelphia had numerous chances to tie the game, but each time it was denied. With 1:34 remaining in the game, Richards let a one-timer fly from below the left circle that cleanly beat Rangers goalie Stephen Valiquette, but the puck rang off the post. It was a microcosm of the game for the Flyers.

“I certainly liked the effort to get back and we created some really good opportunities to get back,” Stevens said. “But this was their fourth game. They were sharp and ready to go. It seemed like we were a step behind moving the puck, a step behind playing the game there in the first 20 minutes. We created a really big hole for ourselves.”

NOTES: The Flyers sent goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin down to the Phantoms prior to the game...Defenseman Derian Hatcher and Ryan Parent were both placed on the Injured Reserve list...Alaskan native and New York Rangers assistant captain Scott Gomez gave Palin a peck on the cheek after she dropped the puck. Brown-noser...Valiquette, who has only 10 career wins, improved to 5-1-1 against the Flyers after stopping 25 shots.

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