PHILADELPHIA -- The Rangers fumbled a prime opportunity to pull away from the Philadelphia Flyers in the Metropolitan Division standings, surrendering a 4-2 loss to their longstanding rivals at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday.
The Blueshirts, riding high after a 2-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, also wasted a chance to jump on the Flyers early with two power-play chances in the first five minutes of play, instead allowing the Flyers to build a 2-0 first-period lead.
Ultimately, the Flyers were able to gain traction in the divisional standings, in which they trail the Rangers by a mere point with 21 games remaining in the regular season.
"The power play could have given us a lead, but their goaltender made some good saves. They made us pay on a couple of opportunities after that," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We battled back hard, won the second period, and in the third just didn’t get enough looks."
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's return to net was spoiled 7:04 into play as Anton Stralman’s stick directed a puck past him in a flukey first goal that put the Rangers on their heels. Lundqvist was deked and beaten by Sean Couturier just 66 seconds later, putting the Rangers into an uncomfortable 2-0 hole.
The Rangers responded in the second, however, with a strong surge that allowed them to tie the game at two with Derick Brassard’s power-play marker at 11:42. But, despite a strong effort, the Rangers fell behind again on a couple of critical breakdowns that allowed Wayne Simmonds to spin and shoot from the left circle for a go-ahead goal on the man advantage.
The Rangers bungled a couple of Grade-A opportunities in the middle frame -- both Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller whiffed on what would have been gimmies -- and couldn’t solve Flyers netminder Steve Mason in the third, either.
Mason, who was terrific in the first period, finished with 33 saves in his star performance, a critical one in helping the Flyers bounce back from Thursday’s 7-3 drubbing received from the San Jose Sharks.
"We were having success in the second," Ryan Callahan said. "For whatever reason, if it was them or us, we didn’t generate enough of that in the third."
Derek Dorsett returned to the lineup for the first time since Jan. 3. The gritty winger, who missed almost two months with a broken leg, was used on the fourth line with Brian Boyle and Daniel Carcillo.
Before the game, Vigneault said he wanted to see both Dorsett and Carcillo together, but Saturday’s game, in which Carcillo spent the majority of the second period in the penalty box, made evaluating that trio a difficult task.
"We did a lot of good things," Lundqvist said, "But it wasn’t enough tonight."