PHILADELPHIA -- The City of Brotherly Love was not so brotherly to former Philadelphia Flyer Daniel Carcillo, but Carcillo got the last laugh when the ice settled, and the New York Rangers left town with a 2-1 series lead Tuesday night.
And after sitting out the first two games of the series as a healthy scratch, Carcillo was the well-deserving recipient of the team’s MVP Broadway Hat following its 4-1 win against the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
In the course of 4 minutes and 34 seconds, Carcillo went from lying face-down on the ice after a questionable hit to the penalty box on a suspect hooking penalty to the Wells Fargo Center’s most unapologetic villain as he stared down a hostile Flyers crowd after scoring the game’s final goal midway through the third period.
The magnified emotional swing began when Carcillo was on the receiving end of a blow to the head from Matt Read, whose arm connected on a swift skate-by that went unpenalized by officials during the third period. An already sour Flyers crowd, bitter with the team’s two-goal deficit, booed Carcillo as he lay on the ice seeking medical attention from the trainer.
For someone whose snarl-and-sandpaper game should’ve forever endeared him to Flyers fans, he received little sympathy.
“Nothing surprises me about this city and the way people act,” Carcillo said after the game.
And though Carcillo was able to assess the crowd reaction with a cool detachment, he was unable to keep his emotions from boiling over shortly after that hit, when he returned to the game and appeared to make a great defensive play to prevent Read from ripping off a shot, only to be sent to the penalty box for a hooking penalty. Carcillo was absolutely livid after the whistle, screaming at the officials even after the door was shut.
Carcillo got payback after he emerged from the box, scoring off the rush on an expert feed from Brian Boyle to seal the game 4-1.
The bench erupted, his teammates were floored, and Carcillo made sure to make Flyers fans aware that he remembered their hostility, staring them down after delivering the dagger.
“We felt like he got kind of a raw deal there,” veteran center Brad Richards told ESPN.com of the events leading up to the goal. “For him to score there felt like a little bit of karma.”
Carcillo, too, felt vindicated. He admitted that it was nice to contribute after rejoining the lineup and to have such a big game against his former team. Carcillo played for the Flyers from 2008-11 but was not given a qualifying offer from the team following his third season there.
And he wanted to prove that, when inserted into the lineup, he can be an effective player, not just an antagonist.
“When you get pigeonholed into a role, it’s hard to change people’s mind in this league,” Carcillo said. “When you get in and get an opportunity like this, you have to make the most of it.”
For the first two games of the series, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault opted for Jesper Fast, a skilled yet inexperienced winger that he used on a line with speedy forward Carl Hagelin and Richards. With the series tied 1-1 and the play becoming increasingly contentious, Vigneault opted to add some vinegar to the lineup instead.
The move paid off.
“I knew putting him into the lineup would bring energy and he would try to play the way he can play,” Vigneault said. “He was obviously at one point a little animated when he got hit to the head and it wasn’t called. But he got the fourth goal to give us a three-goal lead and we took it home from there.”
Carcillo seemed to feel no ill effects from the Read hit, though he did not seem pleased with the play, which may incur scrutiny from the NHL’s Department Of Player Safety.
“I was coming through the middle. It seemed like he saw me but he didn’t try to move,” Carcillo said. “It is what it is. You get hit. You get up.”
An important and emotional win might have helped to alleviate any of the lingering pain as well. Carcillo’s goal capped a critical win for the Rangers, who had to to hold off the Flyers throughout their intense surges in the latter half of the game.
A superb penalty-killing effort, replete with the sort of shot-blocking from seasons past, provided a tremendous boost. Another fine defensive performance to limit Philadelphia’s first line was also vital in holding the Flyers to just one goal.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was unheralded but stellar, recording another playoff win with 31 saves.
But it was Carcillo who ended the night with the Broadway Hat. And it was well-deserved.
“It’s an emotional game. I’m an emotional guy. Over the years, I’ve kind of tailored it,” Carcillo said. “But tonight it came out.”