Rapid Reaction: Flyers 4, Rangers 2
February, 20, 2011
By Mike Hume | ESPNNewYork.com
Recap | Box score | Photos
Since I’ve apparently angered the WiFi gods of the Garden, apologies for the delayed post. But without further ado, here’s the “Quick-ish” Reaction from the Rangers’ Sunday clash with the Flyers.
WHAT IT MEANS: In addition to the rivalry and the fact the Philadelphia Flyers bounced the Rangers from the playoffs on the last day of the regular season in 2010, the Flyers are also a possible first-round playoff opponent this season. With that in mind, losing all three matchups with Philly this season is already rather discouraging. Losing the fourth, 4-2 -- despite a 39-24 shot differential -- while also losing winger Marian Gaborik to a concussion simply added to the sting.
FIRST STRIKE: The line of Wojtek Wolski, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello seemed to be the Rangers’ best throughout the game and gave the Blueshirts their first goal of the game. With 7:17 remaining in the first, Wolski poked home a loose puck between the legs of Flyers G Brian Boucher to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. The goal is Wolski’s 10th of the season.
NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON'T: The game featured lots of long shots through traffic for the Flyers, and early Henrik Lundqvist did a nice job of seeing through the bodies. But with 3:15 remaining in the first, a long wrister by Claude Giroux finally snuck through with the help of a Jeff Carter deflection.
THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM: On the Flyers’ third power play of the game they finally converted, with Giroux potting a wrister over a down-and-out Lundqvist following a behind-the-back pass from Carter who retrieved the puck behind the Rangers net. Daniel Carcillo upped the score to 3-1 when the Rangers couldn’t clear a loose puck from Lundqvist’s crease. The Rangers never received a single power play, as the Flyers played penalty-free hockey. And no, I can’t believe I just typed that sentence.
GABBY GOES DOWN: Marian Gaborik skated just 4:39 before leaving the game after the first period. While you can read up on the injury in this newser, it seems the concussion will keep the winger out for at least a few games, though the time frame is still uncertain.
Though he has just one goal in the month of February, the Rangers certainly could have used him in a third period ripe with scoring chances -- that largely went unconverted. The one the Blueshirts did put home came five minutes into the third after the Flyers had an injury scare of their own. Kimmo Timonen’s knee accidentally collided with the head of goalie Brian Boucher when he scrambled to make a save and left him writhing on the ice. It took him several minutes to get to his feat as rookie netminder Sergei Bobrovsky warmed up, but Boucher remained in the game. Just 30 seconds later a funky bounce off the boards squirted through the Flyers crease right to Stepan who quickly shot it into the gaping net to make it 3-2.
HORSESHOES, HAND GRENADES ... BUT NOT HOCKEY: As has been the norm this season, the Rangers came close on several quality chances in the final frame. But close just didn’t cut it today. In the minutes that followed Stepan’s goal, the Rangers had several rebound opportunities but couldn’t convert any of them. Nor could Artem Anisimov tap home a layup on the doorstep after a wraparound setup by Brandon Dubinsky that would have tied the game at 3.
WHAT'S MISSING?: This marks the fifth straight loss to the Flyers dating back to last season’s finale heartbreaker. Ryan Callahan says their rivals from down I-95 aren’t in their heads however.
“Last season means nothing right now,” Callahan said. “That game today could have gone either way. There’s no question that we can’t beat the Flyers or anything like that. We played them hard and just couldn’t get the two points.”
Marc Staal said he believed the Rangers outplayed the Flyers despite this being the third game in four days for New York.
“You could feel it in the room, we just had more energy,” Staal said.
So what was absent? Simply put, it was scoring touch, perhaps the one aspect of the game that has vexed the Rangers the most this season and the aspect that Gaborik (usually) provides.
WHAT'S NEXT: Another big matchup with playoff implications looms Tuesday night, Feb. 22, when the Rangers travel to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes. After Sunday’s action the Canes sit just two points back of the Rangers in eighth place in the East. The Blueshirts caught one break though, as the hard-charging Buffalo Sabres (six-points back in ninth) lost to the Washington Capitals Sunday.
But the other area to watch will be the trade front. With Gaborik out for an unknown amount of time, the Rangers may need to find another offensive catalyst. There appear to be few answers out there, however. With the Dallas Stars still in the playoff picture, the availability of Brad Richards seems doubtful. And it seems equally unlikely that the Oilers’ Ales Hemsky, one player who is on the market, could provide a difference-making boost. Still, after Sunday it sure feels like the odds of the Rangers attempting to make a big move before the Feb. 28 trading deadline just increased.