New York, NY -- Game one of this four-game gauntlet could have gone much better.
Despite a first-period lead thanks to power-play scores from Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek, Rick Nash registered the go-ahead and insurance tallies in the third period, as the New York Rangers shook off the absence of a key player to overcome the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2, at Madison Square Garden.
Ryan Callahan added two early scores for the Rangers, who did not have the services of center Brad Richards after he was injured Sunday night on an illegal hit by Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta. Nonetheless, New York won its sixth straight home game against Philadelphia dating back more than two years.
"We found a way. It was a ground-it-out type of game the first couple periods. Nash steps up again in the third period, makes a couple big plays, and we found a way to win," said Rangers head coach John Tortorella.
Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves as the Blueshirts have taken three straight overall. With his 24th win over Philly, the Swedish goaler is two shy of the franchise record for most wins against their bitter rivals. John Vanbiesbrouck wound up on the positive side of the ledger 26 times from 1984-93.
The win did come at a cost, as defenseman Marc Staal had to be taken off the ice in the third period after bearing the brunt of a Kimmo Timonen shot which indirectly caromed off his face.
"That was scary. He was in a lot of pain. It was tough to focus after that," said Lundqvist.
Ilya Bryzgalov stopped just 16 pucks in defeat for the Flyers, who slipped below .500 (11-12-1) after seeing a two-game win streak snapped.
The Orange and Black face an even stiffer test on Thursday, hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“All of our games are big but the next game is going to be the biggest
game of the season,” said Philly captain Claude Giroux. “We need to find a way to motivate
ourselves whoever the other team is and we have to find a way to play
our best and keep getting better as a team.”
Following a scoreless but spirited middle 20 minutes, Nash put the hosts ahead with less than three minutes played, sliding the puck between the arm and body of Bryzgalov from an odd-man rush.
Nash then doubled the New York edge at 11:42, cutting from left to right and sliding a backhander home.
"That's my job, that's what I am trying to do," Nash said of his role as timely goal scorer. "It's fun for me to play in front of a sold out building in a hockey city that truly loves the Rangers. I think it’s fun for our whole team to perform in front of these fans."
That score was set up by the second of two blundered changes, this one from the Flyers' defensive pair failing to properly switch assignments.
It didn't affect the offensive thrust, as Lundqvist was peppered in the last minutes of the contest. He was forced to make a quick save on Danny Briere in front with under two minutes left, and Bryzgalov was pulled for an extra skater seconds later.
In a mystifying sequence which encapsulates the club's bad luck in this building, the visitors had their nemesis without a stick, yet missed several quality chances in the waning moments while buzzing around the Rangers' crease.
“It’s not like we were under siege,” Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said. “I
think we shot ourselves in the foot too many times. There weren’t a lot
of chances both ways, but we made more mistakes than they did and that’s
why they won the game.”
New York received the game's first power play and registered the first goal at the 90-second mark as Derek Stepan fed Callahan and the Rangers' captain roofed a shot from the right side.
Philadelphia gained the second advantage and evened the score as Simmonds stood atop the crease for a redirection of a Giroux feed at 7:18. Voracek followed up his own rebound on another Flyers power play and it was 2-1 with 2:03 left in the period.
Callahan then moved around a sliding Luke Schenn on the left side, cut in and scored on the forehand with 41 seconds left.
“Giving up the goal in the last minute can’t happen,” Simmonds said. “We
didn’t play as well as we could have [after that] and it obviously cost
us the game.”
Notes: New York hasn't lost to Philadelphia at home since Feb. 20, 2011, and has taken 10 of the last 13 home matchups since March of 2009 against their long-time rivals...Nash, who has scored in a season-high three straight games, notched his first multi-goal effort with the Rangers...Callahan's two scores proved to be his first multi-score performance since a hat trick against the Flyers in a 5-2 road win on Feb. 11, 2012...Giroux did not record a shot on goal...The Flyers lost defenseman Nicklas Grossmann to a lower-body injury following the first period...Prior to the game, the Flyers recalled forward Eric Wellwood from Adirondack of the AHL and the Rangers recalled forward Micheal Haley from Connecticut.