|PHI||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||4|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Sean Avery notched two of the Rangers’ three power-play goals on Sunday afternoon as the Blueshirts skated to a critical 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden in the back-end of a home-and-home set.
The Rangers -- who had been defeated 4-2 in Philadelphia on Saturday -- scored three power play goals for only the second time this season. They also potted three in a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning back on Nov. 6.
“Power plays come and go, and they are streaky,” noted Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “I am not going to sit here and tell you that we diagrammed this, that, and the other thing, and it worked today. It just doesn’t work that way. Today we were fortunate and it won us a hockey game.”
Avery led the charge for the Rangers, scoring the first goal of the match and another early in the third period that gave the Blueshirts a huge two-goal advantage at the time. Avery now has seven goals on the season, including four in his past three games.
“I feel good about just being out playing, and trying to play hard and get some wins,” said Avery. “And every time I get to walk into The Garden, it’s special. It was almost gone for me, so I am definitely grateful for (this opportunity).”
The Rangers were granted a crucial five-minute power play when Philly’s Braydon Coburn was assessed a match penalty for his high-stick swing against Nik Antropov with five seconds remaining in the second period. And after several excellent scoring chances, the Rangers finally cashed in during that power play, and gave themselves some breathing room on the scoreboard, when Avery notched his second goal of the afternoon at 2:45 of the third.
“Coming into the third with good ice, a five-minute power play, it’s a 2-1 hockey game, we’ve got to get one in,” Scott Gomez explained of the club’s mindset heading into the all-important power play. “That was the goal. Let’s get one. And the guys responded.”
Gomez came out from behind the Flyers net with the puck and slid a pass through the crease. Avery eluded the grasp of Flyers’ defenseman Ryan Parent and poked the puck into the net to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
“I think he’s been outstanding in keeping his concentration and in doing what he’s been asked,” Tortorella said of Avery. “He’s done a very good job, and obviously was a big part of our win today.”
Although the Blueshirts did not score again on the remainder of that major power play, nor on an ensuing power play after Andrew Alberts was whistled for charging Avery at the 4:44 mark of the third, the Rangers were able to, in effect, put the Flyers away when Fredrik Sjostrom scored to up the Rangers advantage to 4-1 at 10:11.
Sjostrom -- bumped up to play on the third line with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan on Sunday -- muscled Alberts off the puck behind the Flyers’ cage and proceeded to slip a wraparound shot just inside the right post and past Antero Niittymaki for his seventh goal of the season, and second in the past three games. Sjostrom’s goal was the only one recorded by either team on Sunday in which the Rangers and Flyers were at even strength.
“It’s always nice to get some more ice time, but when you get the chance you have to go out there and play hard and continue to earn it,” said Sjostrom.
Antropov had snapped a 1-1 tie 8:27 into the second period by scoring the Blueshirts’ second power play goal of the contest. Following a Chris Drury faceoff win in the Flyers’ zone, Antropov wired a wrist shot from the right circle past Niittymaki to put the Rangers back in front 2-1.
The goal was Antropov’s 24th of the season, and his third in six games since being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline. Antropov notched a goal in each game of this home-and-home against the Flyers.
The Rangers came very close to expanding their lead in the middle stanza on several occasions, but had to be content with taking a 2-1 lead into the second intermission. Markus Naslund was denied on a pair of excellent power-play scoring chances midway through the period, including one in which his shot tipped off the edge of Niittymaki’s glove and trickled just wide of the cage. And with 21 seconds left in the second, Michal Rozsival tipped Callahan’s centering pass on a 2-on-1 rush just wide of the net.
Avery’s power-play goal with two minutes remaining in the first period put the Rangers ahead 1-0. Avery slipped between both Flyers’ defensemen and glided through the low slot to deflect a Derek Morris slap shot from the right point past Niittymaki for the game’s first score.
The goal was neatly set up by a patient Morris, who waited until Avery was in position before firing his shot towards the net.
“He’s just been awesome,” Sjostrom said of Avery. “He’s come in here and he’s been focusing on hockey and playing his mind out. He’s been just unbelievable. It’s great having him on the team.”
The power play that resulted in Avery’s goal was granted when Philly’s Joffrey Lupul showed poor judgment in taking an interference penalty in the offensive zone. It was also the Rangers’ third power play of the opening period, the first two of which they earned by skating hard in the Flyers’ end of the ice, forcing Philadelphia into tripping and holding penalties to slow down the Blueshirts.
The only penalty whistled against the Rangers in the opening 20 minutes was one in which defenseman Dan Girardi showed his character as a teammate. After Nikolai Zherdev was bowled over by a charging Mike Richards in the Rangers’ zone, Girardi immediately stepped in and dropped the gloves with the Flyers’ captain. Though Girardi received an extra two minute minor as well as a 10-minute misconduct penalty for instigating the fight, he had sent a clear message that the Rangers’ skilled players are not to be taken advantage of.
Though the Flyers were able to pull even on a power-play goal of their own -- when Simon Gagne deflected a Richards shot past Henrik Lundqvist for his 27th goal at 4:32 of the second period -- the Rangers would answer back and regain the lead for good with Antropov’s power play tally four minutes later.
Lundqvist turned aside 24 of 25 Flyer shots to earn his 31st victory of the season. He is ranked fourth in league in that category.
With a big win in the books on Sunday, the Rangers return to action on Tuesday night when they skate against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. After that the Blueshirts will return to MSG for a three-game homestand that kicks off next weekend with tilts against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night and the Ottawa Senators on Sunday evening.
“I think we are starting to believe that we are a good team,” stated Avery. “I don’t think we really believed that as much as we should. We are a good team.”
|PPG - Sean Avery (6) ASST: Derek Morris (9), Wade Redden (20)|
1 - 0 NYR
|PPG - Simon Gagne (27) ASST: Mike Richards (44), Kimmo Timonen (32)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Nik Antropov (24) ASST: Michal Rozsival (22), Chris Drury (28)|
2 - 1 NYR
|PPG - Sean Avery (7) ASST: Scott Gomez (36), Markus Naslund (20)|
3 - 1 NYR
|Fredrik Sjostrom (7) ASST: Ryan Callahan (13)|
4 - 1 NYR
|Randy Jones Tripping against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Dan Girardi Fighting against Mike Richards|
|Dan Girardi Instigator against Mike Richards|
|Dan Girardi Misconduct|
|Mike Richards Fighting against Dan Girardi|
|Jeff Carter Hooking against Sean Avery|
|Joffrey Lupul Interference against Blair Betts|
|Fredrik Sjostrom Slashing against Kimmo Timonen|
|Daniel Briere Hi-sticking against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Ryan Parent Tripping against Chris Drury|
|Sean Avery Interference - Goalkeeper against Antero Niittymaki|
|Jeff Carter Hooking against Ryan Callahan|
|Michal Rozsival Interference against Mike Richards|
|Braydon Coburn Match penalty against Nik Antropov|
|Andrew Alberts Charging against Sean Avery|
|Brandon Dubinsky Boarding against Matthew Carle|
|Chris Drury Hooking against Joffrey Lupul|
|SA: 39||TOI: 59:48|
|Saves: 35||EV: 18 - 19|
|PIM: 0||PP: 16 - 19|
|SV%: .897||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 25||TOI: 59:25|
|Saves: 24||EV: 12 - 12|
|PIM: 0||PP: 12 - 13|
|SV%: .960||SH: 0 - 0|