By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
On a night that several Rangers achieved significant career milestones, the most important number was two--as in the two points the Rangers earned by virtue of their 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The win---the Rangers first in three games (1-1-1)---kickstarted their three-game road trip in the right direction. The road swing continues Thursday night in Ottawa.
Rick Nash scored twice, including the game-opening score, his 300th NHL goal, in the first period. Brad Richards scored goal No. 250 in the second period. And Derek Stepan notched a goal and three assists, setting a new career-high with four points in the game.
All of those milestones--along with a splendid 32-save effort by Henrik Lundqvist---helped Rangers head coach John Tortorella earn his 400th career victory, the most ever by a U.S. born head coach in National Hockey League history.
And Tortorella's fingerprints were most definitely all over this win, too. Tortorella changed personnel on all of four of his lines prior to the game, and then during the game he moved Michael Del Zotto into the top defense pairing alongside Dan Girardi, while sliding Ryan McDonagh onto the second pair with Steve Eminger. For one night, at least, all of the coach's tinkerings paid dividends.
Nash, who was reunited with Stepan and Carl Hagelin, lasered a snap shot top shelf past Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with 5:06 to play in the first period, giving the Rangers a rare 1-0 lead with his milestone 300th goal. It was only the 12th time in 32 games this season that the Rangers had scored first. They are now 9-2-1 in such games.
That line of Nash-Stepan-Hagelin started the game for the Rangers and came within inches of scoring on the night's opening shift. Stepan sprung Hagelin on a breakaway, but his backhand shot glanced off of Bryzgalov's glove and wide of the cage.
Richards made it 2-0 Rangers just 3:14 into the second period when he scored a power play goal for his fifth of the season and 250th of his NHL career. Set up on right wing, Richards blasted a Stepan pass over Bryzgalov's shoulder with Simon Gagne in the penalty box for holding Del Zotto moments earlier.
After earning the primary assists on the visitor's first two goals, Stepan scored one of his own at 5:46 of the second period, pushing the Rangers lead to 3-0. Nash wristed a shot on net that left Bryzgalov vulnerable and out of position. Stepan swooped in and backhanded the rebound into the gaping net for his tenth goal of the season, at the time marking the fifth time in his career the third-year pro has recorded three points in a single game.
Along with reuniting the Hagelin-Stepan-Nash line, Tortorella put Marian Gaborik on the left side of rookie J.T. Miller---back after missing one game due to a sore left wrist---and team captain Ryan Callahan. Richards centered Chris Kreider and Brian Boyle; while Kris Newbury was in the middle of Arron Asham and Taylor Pyatt on the fourth line.
Each of the lines played with jump and were strong on the forecheck, with Boyle and the entire fourth line standing out for their rugged play.
Meanwhile Lundqvist was shutting the door on the Flyers, stopping all 12 shots he faced in the opening period, and 12 of 13 in the second. He made a string of big-time saves during a pair of Flyers flurries in front of his net---one each in the first two periods---and his sprawling stop on a wide-open Scott Hartnell rebound attempt four minutes into the contest set the right tone for the Rangers and their No. 1 goalie.
A power play goal late in the second period credited to Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek's 14th goal of the season 6:28 into the third period---where Claude Giroux's shot hit him up high with the puck rolling over the goal line---turned the 3-0 Rangers lead into a nail-biting 3-2 one-goal advantage.
However Nash collected a Hagelin feed behind the Flyers net and skated to the side of the cage to sweep a wraparound shot past Bryzgalov at 7:42 to restore a more comfortable two-goal lead for the Rangers. The goal was his second of the game, 12th of the season, and 301st of his NHL career. Stepan notched the secondary assist for his career-best fourth point of the contest.
Kreider finished off a pretty passing sequence that featured assists from Del Zotto and Richards with 7:47 to play in the third period to close out the scoring with his second goal of the season.
The Rangers have now won 11 of their last 12 meetings with the Flyers, including three of four this season.