|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||4|
|PHI||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
Oct. 11, 2008
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers stormed out to a 4-0 first-period lead, and then held on for a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night at the Wachovia Center, the club’s fourth straight win to open up the 2008-09 season.
The season-opening four-game win streak is the longest for the Rangers since the team opened the 1983-84 season with five straight wins for the greatest start in team history. However, this victory was not secured until the Rangers brilliantly killed off 90 seconds worth of a Flyers’ 5-on-3 power play late in the third period of a one-goal game.
In addition, Rangers goaltender Stephen Valiquette, making his first start of the season, was under siege late in the contest, but he made a pair of spectacular saves in the final few minutes on point-blank shots by Philly’s Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell to preserve the win. Valiquette, who posted a 3-0-1 record and 1.04 goals against average against the Flyers last season, finished with 25 saves on Saturday.
“It got a little frisky in the end, but all of the character we built in Prague and Switzerland carried over into tonight,” said Valiquette. “We’re a really proud group in there tonight.”
Trailing by one goal, Philadelphia was awarded a two-man advantage when Brandon Dubinsky and Scott Gomez were whistled for infractions less than 30 seconds apart midway through the final period. Valiquette, along with one unit of Blair Betts, Marc Staal, and Paul Mara, and another of Chris Drury, Michal Rozsival, and Dan Girardi, did an outstanding job killing off the 5-on-3.
Though the Flyers still had several excellent scoring chances after the failed two-man advantage, the double kill by the Blueshirts was clearly a game-saving sequence.
“The 5-on-3 obviously was a turning point for us,” stated Valiquette. “Philadelphia really had built up a lot of momentum late in the game. And I knew that that was going to be the game right there. If we killed it, we were going to win it.”
Moments after Sarah Palin, the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate and noted “Hockey Mom”, dropped the ceremonial first puck between fellow Alaskan Scott Gomez and Richards, the Flyers captain, the Rangers began their stunning domination of the home team.
Patrick Rissmiller, in his Rangers debut, set the tone just 1:38 into the first when he rifled a left-wing shot on goal that Flyers goalie Martin Biron stopped, and then beat everyone to the rebound and drove another shot on net that required a difficult save by Philly’s netminder. Two minutes later, Markus Naslund just missed giving the Rangers the lead when his power-play shot from left wing caromed off the post.
But the floodgates opened against Biron at the 4:12 mark of the opening period when Nikolai Zherdev potted his second goal in as many nights to give New York a 1-0 lead, just two seconds after a Rangers power play had expired.
The scoring play began with Zherdev controlling the puck on left wing in the Flyers zone, before whipping it around the boards to the right point, where Dan Girardi fired a slap shot towards the net. Girardi’s shot hit Aaron Voros, who was camped in front of Biron, deflected to Zherdev, and the 23 year-old winger sent the puck past Biron for the game’s first goal.
Just 63 seconds later, Blair Betts upped the Rangers advantage to 2-0 with his first goal of the season, and first since Dec. 29, 2007 -- a span of 40 games. Knocked to the ice while standing just outside the blue paint, Betts picked himself up immediately and quickly redirected a Zherdev pass from along the back wall between Biron’s pads at 5:15 of the first. The goal was a perfect example of the Rangers’ willingness to pay the price for prime scoring opportunities over the first four games of the season.
The Blueshirts’ fourth line struck again at 8:30 of the first period, and the Rangers had themselves a shocking 3-0 lead over one of their key division rivals. Fredrik Sjostrom burst down left wing and beat Philly defenseman Lasse Kukkonen to a loose puck, then swung around the net and put the puck into the back of the cage on a wraparound, with Biron badly fooled and out of position.
The goal was Sjostrom’s first of the season, with Betts earning an assist for his second point of the match, only the second time in his NHL career that he had ever enjoyed a multi-point game.
At the point of Sjostrom’s goal, the Blueshirts had fired nine shots on goal, while allowing Philly to take only one at Valiquette. That would soon change, however, as the Flyers picked up their offensive game with several flurries after the midway point of the first. Valiquette was equal to the task with two sharp saves on deflections in front by Richards, and a terrific chest save on a point-blank blast off the stick of Flyers sniper Simon Gagne.
At 15:17 of the first, Valiquette was involved in a crucial play when he denied Daniel Briere’s backhand shot on a partial breakaway, and then had the Flyers forward crash high and hard into him, sending the Rangers goalie into the net. Briere was whistled for a goaltender interference penalty, and the Rangers made Philly pay for its mistake by notching a power-play goal to grab a 4-0 lead.
After patiently working the puck around the Flyers zone on the man-advantage, the Rangers scored when Michal Rozsival blasted a shot through a Chris Drury screen in front and past an unflinching Biron at 16:13. Flyers head coach John Stevens had seen enough at this point and lifted Biron from the game, replacing him with Antero Nittymaki. Biron surrendered four goals on 14 shots.
The Blueshirts carried that 4-0 lead into the second period, but they exited the ice after 40 minutes of play with their advantage cut in half after the Flyers potted a pair of middle-stanza goals. Moments after teammate Joffry Lupul fanned on a shorthanded shot from in tight during a 2-on-1 rush, Hartnell ripped a left-wing shot off a face-off win which sailed past Valiquette’s glove and into the net for a shorthanded tally at 3:13 of the second, giving Philadelphia some life in the match.
Valiquette and Nittymaki traded big saves throughout the period until the Flyers scored a controversial goal at the 16:09 mark of the second to make it 4-2. After Dmitri Kalinin gave the puck away deep in his own end, Gagne pounced on it and fired a shot past Valiquette, right after Richards barreled through the crease and bumped the Rangers goalie and knocked him off balance. Though the Rangers argued the non-call, the referees were not swayed to call the apparent penalty, and the Flyers were right back in the game.
The Rangers killed off a pair of penalties -- one to Gomez at 19:25 of the second, the other to Kalinin at 3:00 of the third -- to maintain their 4-2 lead. Betts and Ryan Callahan, in particular, starred on the kills for the Blueshirts, with Valiquette standing tall in goal.
However, the Flyers pulled to within a goal of the Rangers at 5:38 of the third period on a gorgeous goal scored by Richards. A long pass by defenseman Kimmo Timonen to Briere sprung the Flyers out of their own zone. Briere carried the puck into the Rangers end of the ice on right wing, and whipped a perfect cross-ice feed to a speeding Richards, who redirected the puck past Valiquette to cut the Rangers’ lead to 4-3.
Playing on the back-end of two-games-in-two-nights against a fresh team playing its first game of the season, the Rangers nearly received the lift they needed when Gomez rifled a power-play shot past Nittymaki at 9:24 of the third. However, Gomez’s shot slammed against the iron of the goalpost and bounced away, and the Rangers continued to cling to a 4-3 lead.
Drury was robbed twice by Nittymaki, once on the power play and once shorthanded, both times from in close. Nittymaki finished the game by stopping all 13 shots that he faced.
The Rangers now head back to New York, where they will start a three-game homestand with another early-season divisional match, this one against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s a journey, the hockey season,” said Valiquette. “For us to come together, so far, I mean we are so excited about how we are getting along together, and winning helps that, obviously.”
|Nikolay Zherdev (2) ASST: Aaron Voros (3), Dan Girardi (2)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Blair Betts (1) ASST: Nikolay Zherdev (2), Dan Girardi (3)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Fredrik Sjostrom (1) ASST: Blair Betts (1), Colton Orr (1)|
3 - 0 NYR
|PPG - Michal Rozsival (1) ASST: Scott Gomez (3), Markus Naslund (3)|
4 - 0 NYR
|SHG - Scott Hartnell (1) ASST: Glen Metropolit (1)|
4 - 1 NYR
|Simon Gagne (1) ASST: Daniel Briere (1)|
4 - 2 NYR
|Mike Richards (1) ASST: Daniel Briere (2), Steve Eminger (1)|
4 - 3 NYR
|Riley Cote Fighting against Colton Orr|
|Colton Orr Fighting against Riley Cote|
|Jared Ross Holding against Ryan Callahan|
|Daniel Briere Interference - Goalkeeper against Steve Valiquette|
|Paul Mara Roughing against Daniel Briere|
|Mike Richards Roughing against Paul Mara|
|Mike Richards Fighting against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Brandon Dubinsky Fighting against Mike Richards|
|Mike Knuble Tripping against Dan Girardi|
|Fredrik Sjostrom Holding against Daniel Briere|
|Braydon Coburn Boarding against Fredrik Sjostrom|
|Paul Mara Roughing against Mike Richards|
|Luca Sbisa Tripping against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Scott Gomez Roughing against Mike Richards|
|Dmitri Kalinin Slashing against Glen Metropolit|
|Braydon Coburn Holding against Chris Drury|
|Brandon Dubinsky Holding the stick against Lasse Kukkonen|
|Scott Gomez Hooking against Mike Richards|