|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||2|
|PHI||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||4|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Martin Biron turned in an outstanding 39-save performance to lead the Philadelphia Flyers past the Rangers 4-2 on Saturday afternoon at the Wachovia Center in the first game of an important home-and-home set. The same two clubs will meet again on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden in a critical nationally-televised contest.
The Rangers, who dropped two of three games on their just-completed road trip, now trail the Flyers by six points for fourth place in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race.
“We have to learn to play a full 60-minute game,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “I thought we were outstanding for 30-35 minutes of that game, but then we struggled with some basic stuff for a number of minutes. We did a lot of good things, but not enough to get a win; so we’ll try again (Sunday).”
Trailing 2-1, the Rangers surrendered a deflating goal at the 5:47 mark of the third period to fall behind by a pair of scores. The Flyers’ third line did an excellent job of controlling the puck deep in the Rangers’ end, resulting in Arron Asham’s sixth goal of the season. Asham cut to the net and converted a neat feed from Claude Giroux, who was stationed behind the cage, for the extremely important goal.
“I never saw (Asham) on that goal,” explained Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. “I was staring at the puck (behind the net) and didn’t see the guy coming. Unfortunately, (Giroux) got the pass through our defense and it went in.”
Asham put the game away by scoring his second goal of the contest with 5:27 remaining in the third. Sprung up left wing by Giroux, Asham snuck a shot from the circle past Lundqvist to up Philly’s lead to 4-1.
Shortly thereafter, Sean Avery ripped a shot past Biron for his fifth goal of the season -- and second in as many games -- at 16:19 of the third. But the goal was a case of too little, too late for the Rangers.
Biron made the lead stand up with strong third period saves on Markus Naslund early on and Avery midway through.
“We had our chances, there’s no question,” said alternate captain Scott Gomez. “To put up that many shots and opportunities in this barn is pretty tough. But Biron was on. So we just have to go back (Sunday) and play the same way. If we do that, I like our chances.”
After the Flyers had grabbed a 2-1 lead early in the stanza, Biron was absolutely sensational in the second period. Biron stopped all 16 shots he faced in the middle period, and, as such, the Flyers’ one-goal advantage carried into the third period.
Biron denied Ryan Callahan on a rebound in front after a strong pad stop on Wade Redden’s blast from the right point at 13:47. Less than three minutes later, with the Rangers on a power play, Biron stoned Chris Drury on a one-time attempt from the lower left circle. And then on the same Rangers power play at 17:05, Biron burst across his crease from left-to-right to rob Nikolai Zherdev, who had a seemingly-open cage on a rebound try of a Paul Mara slap shot from the blueline.
The Flyers and their goaltender were also very fortunate to carry a 2-1 lead into the final period. It had seemed that the Rangers had tied the game at 13:18 of the second, but a video review upheld the referee’s call on the ice that denied the visitors the equalizer.
On the disputed play, Derek Morris hammered a left-point shot that deflected off a stick, causing Biron to make an outstanding right pad save. The puck bounced high in the air and behind Biron where it seemed to hit he stick and glove of Gomez and go into the net. The referee immediately waived off the goal, and the ensuing video review kept the Rangers’ deficit at one.
“The explanation that was given to me is that because the call was made on the ice, and it was no-goal, that Toronto could not have any conclusive information to overturn it,” said Tortorella. “To me it was a goal.”
With 5:22 remaining in the second period, Michal Rozsival blasted a slap shot off the right post, and Mara followed by firing the rebound into a prone Biron, who was lying on the ice, yet another case of good fortune for the Flyers.
With the score tied 1-1, Philadelphia scored the go-ahead goal at the 6:07 mark of the middle stanza. Redden got caught pinching in the Flyers zone with no help from behind after a Morris shot went wide of the net, and Simon Gagne quickly sped the other way on an odd-man rush. Though Morris expertly knocked the puck off Gagne’s stick at the last second, the Flyers maintained control of the puck around the Rangers’ net, and, after a great right pad save by Lundqvist, scored when Mike Richards flipped the rebound into the net.
“If you are going to be aggressive then you are going to give up chances along the way,” said Tortorella. “We had a few of them (Saturday) where we lost our support. So we’re going to have to try and correct that. We want to remain aggressive, but we need the support.”
Things heated up during the second period as Colton Orr and Philly’s Riley Cote engaged in a real heavyweight fight, one that saw Orr land three successive right hands to Cote’s head, making the knees of the Flyers winger knuckle. And the period came to a close with the Blueshirts’ Brandon Dubinsky and the Flyers’ Daniel Carcillo needing to be separated by the officials.
An evenly-played, up-tempo first period concluded with the score tied 1-1, and with each squad credited with 13 shots on goal.
Nik Antropov put the Rangers up 1-0 just 3:28 into the match when he stole the puck from Flyers defenseman Matt Carle and took off down the ice on a breakaway, finishing with a wicked forehand shot that beat Biron to the stick side for his 23rd goal of the season.
The Flyers answered back late in the period, scoring off an odd-man rush of their own to tie the game. Skating on a 2-on-1 rush, Philly’s Jeff Carter blasted a right wing bomb on net which Lundqvist kicked out with his right pad. However the rebound came right to Scott Hartnell in the left circle, and he hammered it into the open cage for his 25th goal at 16:34.
“That was a big goal to come right back and make it 1-1 late,” noted Drury. “If we get out of the first up 1-0, you never know.”
Both teams had other excellent chances to score in the opening period, but were denied by the respective goaltenders. Lundqvist’s first gem came only 20 second after the start of the contest when he made a sharp stick save on Asham’s point-blank snap shot. He also was forced into making a tricky chest save when a shot by Richards off a faceoff deflected off Redden and on goal 2:50 into the first.
Perhaps Lundqvist’s best save in the opening 20 minutes came at 4:50 when he flashed out a quick right leg to rob Mike Knuble on a power play one-timer from between the circles.
The Rangers had their share of quality scoring chances in the first period, as well. Two minutes into the match, Blair Betts nearly was able to sneak a tricky wrap past Biron, but the puck banged against the goalie’s skate and stayed out of the net. Then at 4:06 -- less than a minute after his goal -- Antropov was denied from the edge of the crease when Biron made a sharp stick save. And at 11:26, Orr found himself alone five feet from the net with the puck and he fired a shot that was again kept out by Biron’s quick stick.
“He played a heckuva’ game and certainly made some big saves,” Drury said of Biron. “We’ll have to find a way to get it by him (Sunday).”
Down to 13 games remaining in the regular season, the Rangers will play the back-end of their home-and-home with the Flyers at The Garden on Sunday, needing to find a way to split this back-to-back set.
“It’s a big game, no question,” said Lundqvist. “We need to go back now and just reload and get ready for (Sunday) because it’s going to be another tough game.”
|Nik Antropov (23) ASST: NONE|
1 - 0 NYR
|Scott Hartnell (25) ASST: Jeff Carter (31), Joffrey Lupul (23)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Mike Richards (27) ASST: Kimmo Timonen (31), Simon Gagne (37)|
2 - 1 PHI
|Arron Asham (6) ASST: Claude Giroux (9), Daniel Carcillo (9)|
3 - 1 PHI
|Arron Asham (7) ASST: Claude Giroux (10), Daniel Carcillo (10)|
4 - 1 PHI
|Sean Avery (5) ASST: Brandon Dubinsky (25), Ryan Callahan (12)|
4 - 2 PHI
|Marc Staal Tripping against Arron Asham|
|Jeff Carter Tripping against Dan Girardi|
|Derek Morris Holding the stick against Mike Richards|
|Colton Orr Fighting against Riley Cote|
|Riley Cote Fighting against Colton Orr|
|Braydon Coburn Tripping against Chris Drury|
|Markus Naslund Hi-sticking against Ryan Parent|
|Mike Richards Elbowing against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Mike Richards Boarding against Sean Avery|