Derick Brassard recorded a goal and an assist, and Martin Biron was unscored upon playing the first half of the game in goal, as the Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, handing Alain Vigneault his first win — albeit in pre-season action — as head coach of the Rangers.
The Rangers never trailed, securing three separate one-goal leads along the way. Biron faced only six shots in 31 minutes 22 minutes of action, though his first two saves — both on Vincent Lecavalier in the first period — were difficult. Biron first stopped Lecavalier off a 2-on-1 rush at 6:53, then jammed his pads together to deny Lecavalier's uncontested slam dunk try with two minutes left to play in the opening stanza.
Newcomer Benoit Pouliot scored the game winner for the Rangers, converting a Brassard feed down low at the 5:30 mark of the third period — three minutes after the Flyers had tied the game 2-2.
After thoroughly controlling the opening period — outshooting Philadelphia 8-3 yet failing to score — the Rangers broke through in the second period, scoring once early and once late to take a 2-1 lead into the final period of play. The goals came from one expected source and another not so expected.
Brassard ripped a one-timer past Steve Mason 70 seconds into the middle stanza to open the scoring. Stationed in the slot, Brassard was the recipient of a brilliant backhand feed from behind the goal line off the stick of Mats Zuccarello, and the gifted center made no mistake in zipping his shot into the back of the cage. Many in the crowd were not even sure a goal had been scored because the puck hit the back of the net and came back out so quickly.
The Flyers briefly came to life shortly after Biron was replaced by Cam Talbot in the Rangers net midway through the second period. Talbot was challenged with a quick, difficult shot on the first shift after he entered the game, and less than two minutes later he surrendered the tying goal to his Philly namesake, Max Talbot, who took advantage of a rush up left wing when defenseman Dylan McIlrath let him slip by. Talbot then proceeded to fire a shot from the circle past the Rangers rookie goaltender at 13:26.
After withstanding a bit of a surge by the Flyers after the goal, the Rangers regained the lead with just 33.9 seconds remaining in the middle period. Andrew Yogan, the Rangers fourth round selection in the 2010 draft, wired a bad angle right-wing shot towards the net and the puck pinballed off teammate Darroll Powe in front and past Mason for the go-ahead score. Powe, who also played in Monday's pre-season opener against the Devils, failed to record a single point last season while splitting the season with the Minnesota Wild and the Rangers, so a goal from his was a pleasant surprise.
Yogan, of course, deserved some of the credit for the goal, too. The assist was just part of a solid all-around game the youngster had, especially in the offensive end where Yogan was active and involved throughout, teamed with Powe and rookie Michael Kantor.
And Yogan was not the only Rangers rookie to shine Tuesday night. Swedish forwards Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg looked far from out of place facing NHL opponants for the first time in their careers. The pair skated on the same line along with veteran Taylor Pyatt. Fast, in particular turned in a solid showing, generating a string of scoring chances, especially in the opening period.
Young defenseman Conor Allan also had a strong showing, playing calmly in his own end alongside partner Anton Stralman and picking up an assist on Powe's goal, as well.
McIlrath, the Rangers top pick in 2010, had a bit of struggle, however. After being beaten by Talbot on Philly's first goal, McIlrath's turnover led to Sean Couturier's game-tying score 2:28 into the third period. He did bounce back and earn the secondary assist on Pouliot's goal with a good hard slap shot that created a rebound in front.