When the Rangers bring their A game, you had best respond in kind, lest you end up like the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, victims of a 7-0 mauling by New York. Perhaps resting a little too comfortably on their laurels atop the Eastern Conference standings, the Flyers could never meet the Rangers’ intensity and were simply run over in the score column. Here’s how it all went down at the Garden.
What It Means
There have been several instances when the Rangers have showed their true potential (including 7-0 and 6-0 wins vs. the Washington Capitals). It’s these types of games that impart hope into the Ranger faithful that this team not only can make the playoffs, but do some damage while they’re there. But they still have to get in first, and while the Rangers have pocketed four points in their past two games the Buffalo Sabres hover close behind. The Sabres have picked up 10 points in their past six games and trail the Rangers by just four points with four games in hand heading into Sunday night’s matchup against the Wild.
Perhaps hoping to harness some of their road chi and halt their recent home woes (where the Rangers were 14-16-3 entering today), the Blueshirts sported white shirts this afternoon and certainly performed to their Sunday best. The win ended a string of five straight losses to the Flyers and marked the Rangers’ first win over their rivals this season. And the Garden crowd loved every second of it. Broadcast nationally on NBC, the game had a playoff feel, with plenty of penalties, a slew of big hits and highlight-reel goals that whipped up the fans and put the Mad in Madison Square Garden.
That Didn’t Take Long
New York wanted to establish the forecheck early and did one better. Ryan Callahan netted his 17th goal of the season off assist from Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov less than a minute into the game to stake the Rangers to a 1-0 lead. That lead ballooned to 2-0 on a PP goal from Callahan and stayed that way through the first period thanks to a sensational save by Henrik Lunqvist in the final minute to halt a 2-on-1 Flyer rush. The Rangers finished the first with a 14-7 edge in the shots department.
Flying Fists, Flying Start
Brian Boyle was banished for a questionable instigating call (a two minute penalty, plus a 10-minute misconduct) after standing up for a teammate who got trucked by Jody Shelley near the Flyer blue line. It could have gone horribly for the Rangers (and the fight did go horribly for Boyle), but instead it resulted in Callahan's second goal, this time on the PP, when a slash by Mike Richards negated the Flyers’ man advantage and put the Rangers a man up for about a minute midway though the first. The fight card got a little longer at the start of the second when Richards went toe-to-toe with Dubinsky and ended up on his knees. Dubinsky earned the decision after he started throwing with his left hand, leaving Richards tied up in his sweater and unable to defend his face.
After Further Review
A potential goal by Sean Avery was waved off at the 1:48 mark of the second. A video review showed Avery used a kicking motion to guide the puck between Boucher’s pads and the marker was disallowed. The reprieve prevented the game from getting out of hand early for Philadelphia. Of course, that reprieve didn’t last long.
The Rangers finally got their third goal at the 5:06 mark of the second when Mats Zuccarello beat Boucher with a wrist shot as he came down the right wing on a 3-on-1. Suddenly everything was clicking for the Rangers and the Flyers continued reeling.
Four Score …
Seconds after a horrible Flyer turnover in their own slot, Callahan sent a shot to top shelf for his third of the game and send the hats streaming towards to the ice. The caps were a cruel parting gift for Boucher who was pulled for Sergei Bobrovsky while the cleanup crew collected the fans’ tokens of appreciation. Callahan simply piled on during a third period power play, redirecting a sensational feed from Gilroy with his skate. After a brief review it was determined there was no kicking motion and the goal stood as the Flyers continued to fall. With a little over five minutes remaining Anisimov broke in uncontested for the Rangers’ sixth goal of the game and Zuccarello notched another to conclude the landslide win.
Hank The Tank Keeps Truckin’
Oh yeah, and Henrik Lundqvist recorded his league-leading ninth shutout of the season. No big deal.
Marian Gaborik (concussion) returned to the lineup today, as did Ryan McDonagh (knee). The return of the Slovakian winger, out since Feb. 20, against the physical Flyers should tell you something about the heated race the Rangers find themselves in for the final few playoff spots in the East. It was a gamble, particularly in a game filled with big hits. Early in the second, Gaborik traded some shots and glove-on jabs with Kris Versteeg, a sequence that earned both matching roughing minors. Gaborik finished with four shots on goal in 14:28 and looked solid overall. He would have had an assist (and Callahan another goal) had Bobrovsky not made a stellar kick save on one Ranger power play.
The Rangers will look to extend their win streak to three in a row when they head west to face Anaheim March 9 before heading north to take on San Jose March 12.