NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers took Game 1 of their first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, knocking off their Metropolitan Division foes 4-1 after tallying a pair of power-play goals in the third period.
Flyers rookie Jason Akeson made a costly mistake when he was slapped with a double-minor high-sticking penalty in the final frame.
With the game tied at 1, both Brad Richards and Derek Stepan scored on the man advantage, beating backup netminder Ray Emery, who was stellar for two-plus periods of play. Carl Hagelin boosted the Rangers’ lead to three goals later in the period. Richards finished the night with a goal and two assists.
Emery replaced starting keeper Steve Mason between the pipes for the Flyers. Mason missed Game 1 with an upper-body injury sustained last Saturday. His status for Game 2 is uncertain.
Tilting the ice: The Rangers wrested momentum early in the first period after a clutch penalty-killing performance that had the crowd at MSG going wild. With one of their top penalty killers in the box after Ryan McDonagh was whistled for high sticking less than a minute into the third period, the Rangers held a potent Flyers power play at bay, denying Philadelphia a single shot on the man advantage. The Flyers led the NHL in the regular season with a road power-play success rate of 25.2 percent.
Pay day: Addressing one of the team’s most glaring deficiencies all season long, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren acquired Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald at the NHL trade deadline last month, hoping to add some depth and skill to the team’s porous defense. He apparently liked what he saw from MacDonald in the final five weeks of the regular season because he inked the 27-year-old to a six-year, $30 million extension earlier this week. MacDonald paid dividends for the Flyers on Thursday night, giving Philadelphia a 1-0 lead 7:28 into play with a shot from the left point. It was the Flyers’ first shot of the night, as they surrendered the territorial edge to the Rangers in the first period. New York outshot Philadelphia 14-6 in the opening frame.
Decisions, decisions: Rangers coach Alain Vigneault went with skilled, two-way forward Jesper Fast on Thursday instead of snarly winger Daniel Carcillo. Will that hold for the rest of the series? With the series expected to only increase in nastiness, Carcillo may become a more appealing option. The former Flyer just happens to be an elite antagonist, his game tailored to the type of black-and-blue series so common in the playoffs.
Up Next: The Rangers will host the Flyers again in Game 2 on Easter Sunday before the series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 Tuesday.