|PHI||1||4||0||(0 - 0)||5|
|NYR||0||1||1||(0 - 0)||2|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Over the final 25 games of the regular season, the Rangers will have four more opportunities to avenge the 5-2 loss they suffered at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon. That is probably the best that can be said in the aftermath of a disappointing defeat.
The Rangers and Flyers will face one another four more times before the 2008-09 campaign is complete -- twice at MSG and twice in Philadelphia -- and with these two rivals battling for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference, those matches will be critical for the Blueshirts
“It was disappointing, and it was tough day for us, a tough day for everybody,” said Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “Right now it’s an ‘all in’ thing. It’s time to man up.”
On Sunday, the Flyers raced out to a 5-0 lead -- scoring four times alone early in the second period -- before the Rangers got themselves on the scoreboard. Rookie Claude Giroux led the way for the Flyers with a goal and two assists, and goalie Martin Biron finished with 35 saves.
The Flyers have won four of their last five contests and they now have 69 points to solidify their hold on fourth place in the East. The Rangers -- 1-5-2 in their last eight games -- remained tied for fifth with the Montreal Canadiens. Both teams have 66 points.
Injury was added to insult 6:14 into the third period when Rangers’ defenseman Paul Mara was ushered from the ice with an injured right shoulder after a fight with the Flyers Aaron Asham.
“After I threw the first two punches, as I was swinging, I could feel something in (the shoulder),” explained Mara, who will definitely not play against the Blues on Monday night in St. Louis. “My shoulder has never been hurt before, so hopefully it’ll be a quick rehab and quick recovery, and get back on the ice.”
The turning point of the game took place early in the second period when the Flyers were able to double their one-goal lead by scoring a shorthanded goal while down not just one, but two, skaters.
With Scott Hartnell already in the penalty box, Philly’s Jeff Carter was whistled for a tripping penalty just 19 seconds into the middle stanza, handing the Rangers 1:18 worth of a 5-on-3 power play. Trailing 1-0 at the time, the Rangers had a prime opportunity to, at least, pull even on the scoreboard.
However, Flyers captain Mike Richards accepted a perfect break-out pass from defenseman Braydon Coburn and burst past two Rangers for a clear breakaway on Henrik Lundqvist. With Chris Drury desperately lunging at Richards with his stick, Richards partially misfired on his shot, but was able to send a knuckleball shot past the glove of Lundqvist to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead at 1:18 of the second.
“At that point in the game, that’s a real hard one to swallow,” said alternate captain Scott Gomez. “You can’t dwell on it, but for a second, sure, you think ‘here we go again’. But you’re a professional and you’ve got to get right back at it and not dwell on it.”
The Flyers are renowned for their shorthanded scoring exploits this season, while, conversely, the Rangers have given up an inordinate amount of shorthanded tallies. That did not make for a good combination as far as the Rangers were concerned when Richards potted his fifth shorthanded score -- and 20th goal overall -- this season. The Flyers now have scored an incredible 14 shorthanded goals this year.
“If you’re on a winning streak and you give up that second goal, you can recover, but in a spot like this it’s pretty tough to give up a goal like that,” explained Lundqvist. “I think we lost a little focus after (the second goal).”
Had the Rangers been able to answer back while still on the power play, Sunday’s result might have been different. But instead the Rangers power play fizzled, and shortly thereafter the game slipped out of their reach.
Philadelphia put any hope of a Rangers comeback out of everyone’s minds by scoring three goals on three shots over a span of 1:49 beginning with Matt Carle’s tally at 7:03 of the second.
Relentless forechecking pressure by the Flyers, and the Rangers inability to move the puck out of their own zone, led to Carle’s fifth goal of the season. The Philly defenseman cruised in on left wing to collect a puck that slid through the slot, and he wristed it past Lundqvist on the stick side to give the Flyers a 3-0 advantage.
Just 54 seconds later, the lead was up to 4-0, and Lundqvist was headed to the bench in favor of Stephen Valiquette. Philly’s grinding center Glen Metropolit fired the puck from behind the goal line towards the crease, and the puck deflected off of Lundqvist’s left skate and into the net for Metropolit’s third goal.
At that point, Renney told Valiquette to replace Lundqvist, and the disappointing afternoon for the Rangers’ All-Star goaltender was done. Lundqvist, who was coming off an amazing 42-save effort on Friday night against the Panthers, stopped just 10 of 14 shots on Sunday afternoon.
Lundqvist spent much of the remainder of the second period with his mask still covering his face as he sat at the end of the Blueshirts’ bench.
Thrust into the middle of a Flyers’ onslaught, Valiquette allowed a goal on the first shot he faced at the 8:52 mark. Former Ranger Mike Knuble got in behind the Rangers defense and converted a 2-on-1 feed from Giroux for his 19th goal of the season, upping the Flyers lead to 5-0.
The assist was Giroux’s second of the game, and it was his third point. Giroux had opened the scoring at 8:12 of the first period, firing a 10-foot shot past a scrambling Lundqvist again after excellent pressure by Philly’s forwards.
“We were all over the place, no one was in position or playing the way we were supposed to,” said Markus Naslund. “We have to get back to being the team we know that we can be.”
Down by five goals and being embarrassed on home ice, the Rangers raised their intensity level and picked up the pressure in the offensive zone. Not surprisingly, when the Blueshirts finally broke through and scored against Biron at 12:25 of the second, Lauri Korpikoski and Ryan Callahan -- the team’s most effectively energetic players all afternoon -- combined on the goal.
Callahan did the work behind the Flyers net, and nudged the puck towards the bottom of the right-wing circle. Korpikoski grabbed it there, patiently weaved past a Flyers’ defenseman, and slid a shot past Biron for his fifth goal of the season.
The rookie forward now has two goals and three points in his last three contests, and three of his five goals this year have come in the last nine games.
Korpikoski and Callahan were two of a handful of players who stood out with their passionate effort on Sunday afternoon. Brandon Dubinsky -- who dropped the gloves with Hartnell late in the second and who was engaged physically throughout the game -- also stood out in this area for the Rangers as did Drury and defenseman Erik Reitz.
The Rangers pulled to within 5-2 at the 9:39 mark of the third period when Nikolai Zherdev deflected Wade Redden’s left point shot past Biron for his 16th goal of the season. The assist was Redden’s second of the game.
Petr Prucha also earned an assist on the Rangers’ second goal. Prucha was in the lineup for the first time in seven matches -- skating in the place of healthy scratch Aaron Voros -- and for only the second time in the last 10 games.
An opportunity to gain some points in the standings is right ahead for the Rangers as they will face two teams in the next three days that are currently out of the playoff mix in their respective conferences. Monday’s road clash with the Blues will be followed by a home-ice contest on Wednesday evening against the Islanders.
“Right now we have to recover and get ready for (Monday) night’s game,” stated Lundqvist, whom Renney tabbed to start once again in St. Louis. “We have a good group here. We just have to get together and start playing as good as we can.”
|Claude Giroux (3) Wrist shot - ASST: Scottie Upshall (14), Darroll Powe (3)|
1 - 0 PHI
|SHG - Mike Richards (20) Wrist shot - ASST: Braydon Coburn (15)|
2 - 0 PHI
|Matthew Carle (5) Snap shot - ASST: Claude Giroux (6), Scott Hartnell (21)|
3 - 0 PHI
|Glen Metropolit (3) Wrist shot - ASST: Riley Cote (2)|
4 - 0 PHI
|Mike Knuble (19) Snap shot - ASST: Claude Giroux (7), Simon Gagne (28)|
5 - 0 PHI
|Lauri Korpikoski (5) Wrist shot - ASST: Ryan Callahan (8), Wade Redden (16)|
5 - 1 PHI
|Nikolay Zherdev (16) Deflected shot - ASST: Wade Redden (17), Petr Prucha (4)|
5 - 2 PHI
|Simon Gagne Tripping against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Michal Rozsival Interference against Scottie Upshall|
|Markus Naslund Holding against Ryan Parent|
|Scott Hartnell Slashing against Dan Girardi|
|Jeff Carter Tripping against Marc Staal|
|Colton Orr Unsportsmanlike conduct|
|Colton Orr Misconduct (10 min)|
|Claude Giroux Tripping against Ryan Callahan|
|Marc Staal Cross checking against Darroll Powe|
|Scott Hartnell Interference on goalkeeper against Steve Valiquette|
|Brandon Dubinsky Fighting (maj) against Scott Hartnell|
|Scott Hartnell Fighting (maj) against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Arron Asham Fighting (maj) against Paul Mara|
|Paul Mara Fighting (maj) against Arron Asham|
|Riley Cote Misconduct (10 min)|