NEW YORK -- Well, it wasn't the bloodbath many anticipated. It wasn't even a close game, really. But the New York Rangers rattled off their fifth straight win with a 3-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers, a team that could very well be the Blueshirts' first-round foe when the playoffs begin next month.
Fourth-liners Derek Dorsett and Dominic Moore both scored, as did defenseman Ryan McDonagh while goaltender Henrik Lundqvist held off the Flyers, making 30 saves to neutralize one of the team's most hated rivals. He was less than two minutes away from recording his 51st career shutout, when Jakub Voracek spoiled his bid with 1:53 to play in regulation.
With the win, the Rangers created a bit more breathing room in the Metropolitan Division standings, where they sit in second place three points ahead of the Flyers. Philly has two games in hand, however, so don't be surprised to see a battle for home-ice advantage to go down to the wire in the final two weeks of the regular season.
Adding offense: The Rangers have received key contributions from their blue line lately, particularly in the last pair of games. Veteran defenseman Dan Girardi notched the game-tying goal against Phoenix on Monday, with his defensive partner McDonagh tallying the game-winner in overtime. McDonagh extended his point streak to five games Wednesday night with his 14th goal of the season to give the Rangers an important 2-0 lead heading into the third period.
Missing something: The Rangers were lacking Chris Kreider’s big body down low and his speed streaking down the left wing Wednesday night with the 22-year-old winger sidelined indefinitely with a hand injury. That may be something the Rangers have to get used to as Kreider will miss the team’s upcoming road trip to Western Canada and may need to undergo surgery. Coach Alain Vigneault did not rule out that possibility when asked about Kreider’s status Wednesday morning, and though the Rangers are still weighing the “best course of action” to take with the top-six forward, it does not look good. Kreider, who was replaced with Martin St. Louis on a line with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash Wednesday, has 17 goals and 37 points this season for the Rangers.
Star turn? Kreider was the unexpected, breakout star for the Rangers in the 2012 playoffs. Could we be in store for a similar phenomena from 21-year-old prospect J.T. Miller? Miller was recalled after an impressive stretch in the minors to replace Kreider in the Rangers lineup. After bouncing back and forth between New York and Hartford all season, this may be his best opportunity yet to prove he belongs with the big boys.
Net presence: Should the Rangers meet the Flyers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, as many suspect they will, the Blueshirts can find comfort in the fact that they enjoy the edge in the goaltending department. While Lundqvist has been stellar as of late, there remain some question marks about Steve Mason. Mason has played well through stretches this season, even earning an extension from the Flyers in the process, though he has no playoff success to lean on. Mason let in a soft one in the third period Wednesday night with Moore’s tip that skittered through Mason’s pads for a 3-0 lead. Those aren’t the type of goals he can afford to be giving up if the Flyers want to advance past the first round.