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NEW YORK -- As much as goaltending has been heralded as an X factor for the Philadelphia Flyers in their first-round series against the New York Rangers, injury replacement Ray Emery has more than just held his own between the pipes.

Making consecutive starts for the first time this season with regular starter Steve Mason on the shelf with an upper-body injury, Emery has given the Flyers what they need: a chance to win.

Could Flyers coach Craig Berube have a tough decision on his hands once Mason is healthy and ready to play?

"I'm not really thinking that far ahead," Berube said following Sunday’s 4-2 win against the Rangers.

Thursday Emery was strong in the first 48 minutes of play before an ill-advised double-minor penalty put the Flyers down a man for four minutes. On Sunday, he made 31 saves and held the Rangers to two goals in an important victory that sent the series back to Philadelphia with the two teams tied 1-1.

"We don't win that game without Razor," said captain Claude Giroux after the game. "He was solid. He's a competitor."

Emery also surrendered only one power-play goal despite the Flyers being down a man six times for a total of 11:27.

"He's a battler. Always has been," said Berube. "I've known Ray for a while. We had him here before. He stayed with it. He's very good at that. He's a true pro."

While thrust into the starting role after Mason went down following a collision during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins last weekend, Emery is no novice. The 31-year-old goaltender has ample playoff experience from his previous time spent playing with the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks. He also backed up Corey Crawford on the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks last season.

"It's great to play in the playoffs," Emery said. "As a player, that's when you really want to play. I'm fortunate to be in there."

Mason skated for the third consecutive day Sunday before the team's game. He is expected to practice again on Monday, barring any setbacks from the injury.

"I'm assuming," Berube said of Mason being expected to skate again Monday. "But we'll see."

Though he has been asked several times, Mason has declined to reveal whether he is suffering from a concussion. On Friday, he revealed that he has had two concussions previously.

Mason has not made a playoff appearance since his Columbus Blue Jackets were swept in the first round of the Western Conference quarterfinals by the Detroit Red Wings during his rookie season in 2009.

The 25-year-old Mason, who earned a three-year contract extension with the Flyers earlier this season, said he is aiming to return for Game 3 on Tuesday.
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NEW YORK -- Philadelphia Flyers rookie Jason Akeson has the sort of skill, spunk and confidence that can make him a dangerous player in the playoffs, even with his utter lack of experience.

He possesses another important attribute, one that has already helped him in the series, and one that will certainly aid him throughout what could be a long NHL career ahead.

[+] EnlargeDerick Brassard
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesJason Akeson fell short against Derick Brassard and the Rangers in Game 1 but made up for it on Sunday.
"He's got a short memory," said Flyers winger Jakub Voracek. "That's what you have to have to be successful in this league."

That much was abundantly clear when Akeson delivered the Flyers' game-tying goal in the second period, ripping a rebound into an open net at the left post in what was a terrific come-from-behind effort that allowed the Flyers to top the New York Rangers 4-2 on Sunday and send the series back to Philadelphia tied at one game each.

Akeson, of course, had the dubious honor of being the Game 1 goat after taking a costly double-minor high-sticking penalty on forward Carl Hagelin on Thursday that resulted in a pair of power-play goals for the Rangers. The crushing mistake came in his NHL playoff debut. Previously, he had played in two NHL games in his career.

And what was worse? He had otherwise played a really good game, providing the team with the type of energy and jump that was largely lacking in their opening game against their Metropolitan Division rivals.

"I think he was the best player on the ice in our first game, to be honest," said Voracek, who was held without a shot in the loss. "That happens and it's unfortunate, but he's a very good player and he has a good mindset."

Indeed, the 23-year-old didn't hide from the media after his game-changing gaffe. He didn't sulk, even when coach Craig Berube was candid in his blunt assessment of the mistake.

"He's got to be better with his stick," he said after Thursday's game. As such, Berube showed no hesitation going back to the young forward, inserting him in Sunday's starting lineup with linemates Matt Read and Sean Couturier and using him again on the power play.

"Should I sit out everybody that takes a penalty?" Berube said, joking, Sunday. "I understand he took a four-minute penalty, but he played well and it was a mistake. He's a good player. He's played well for us."

Akeson, who spent 70 games playing with the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms this season, admitted he got a boost knowing that Berube "had his back." His teammates also told him to shake it off and move on to the next game. Judging by his performance, he did that expertly.

"It's obviously not a fun thing to go through, but you don't dwell on it," Akeson said. "You move on and focus on Game 2."

Akeson said he went into Sunday's action with a little something to prove, wanting to atone for Thursday's slip-up. But that didn't temper his intensity or the edge he played with on the ice.

"This time of year, you have to think about the next shift, the next time you're out there," said Couturier. "You can't think about what happened in the past, because it's going to haunt you down. I think he responded really well tonight."
videoNEW YORK -- And we have ourselves a series, folks.

Following a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1, the New York Rangers had the chance to secure a two-game lead at Madison Square Garden, siphon all confidence from the Flyers and send them back to Philadelphia with doubts about whether they could knock off their divisional foe in the best-of-seven set.

They didn’t.

[+] EnlargeJakub Voracek
Paul Bereswill/Getty ImagesFour unanswered goals sunk the Rangers in Game 2.
Instead, the Rangers let a two-goal lead in the first period disappear as a resilient Flyers squad rattled off four unanswered goals to snap a nine-game losing streak at MSG with a 4-2 win Sunday afternoon. The two teams now head to Philly for Game 3 in what promises to be hostile territory for the Blueshirts at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

“We knew they were going to come back and play a better game than last time. It’s going to be a close race,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who gave up three goals on 24 shots. “We didn’t expect this to be easy.”

And it won’t be, if Sunday’s matinee was any indication. Staring down a 2-0 hole after the Rangers exploited some wide-open passing lanes and took advantage of the Flyers’ lack of discipline, Philadelphia surged back with the help of its first line.

Rendered ineffective for the most part on Thursday, the Flyers' top trio of Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek got the team on the board off the rush late in the first period and didn’t look back. The Flyers' penalty kill was stellar, limiting the Rangers to just one man-up marker on six power-play attempts. Backup netminder Ray Emery, who was replacing injured starter Steve Mason, was solid in net, making 31 saves to record his first win of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Flyers raised their level of play, as the Rangers expected they would.

“This is a good team. By no means did we think this was going to be an easy series,” said veteran forward Martin St. Louis, who scored his first playoff goal as a New York Ranger on a sharp-angle shot 4:08 into play. “We know we have to be better. We knew that they were going to be better after Game 1, and they were.”

In recent years, the Rangers have shown difficulty in closing out a series quickly, even after taking Game 1. In the 2012 playoffs, the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers took the series opener of both their quarterfinal set against the Ottawa Senators and their semifinal matchup against the Washington Capitals. It took the Rangers seven games to win both series, raising the question of whether fatigue was a factor in the team’s Eastern Conference finals loss to the New Jersey Devils that spring.

Last spring, the Rangers fell down 2-0 before edging the Capitals in seven games. They were then bounced in a matter of five in the second round, outclassed by the dominant Boston Bruins.

New York couldn’t convert on the chances it had to close out Sunday’s game, and the Flyers responded with that needed sense of opportunism.

How much did that hurt the team in the end?

“They were very big,” alternate captain Brad Richards said of the team’s missed opportunities. “We had some power plays tonight that we didn’t get done. We had some point-blank chances that Emery made some big saves on. It could go either way in some of those situations. They seemed to be very opportunistic on their chances, and they won.”

Buckle up. These teams may be in for a lengthy battle.
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Kings and Sharks are expected to go with the same lineups for Game 2 Sunday night.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he didn't anticipate making any changes from his Game 1 lineup.

"Likely," answered Sharks coach Todd McLellan to whether he's sticking with the same group that produced a 6-3 win.

That means another healthy scratch likely for veteran winger Martin Havlat, which is certainly a new experience for him at this time of year.

"It is," Havlat said Sunday morning. "But it is what it is. I'm ready when they need me. ...

"It's not easy for anybody that's not in the lineup. You look forward to this all year, really your whole career, to play in the playoffs. Some things you can't control. I just have to stay in shape and be ready when I get the call."

Sharks lines from the morning skate:
Joe Pavelski-Joe Thornton-Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau-Logan Couture-Matt Nieto
Tomas Hertl-James Sheppard-Tommy Wingels
Raffi Torres-Andrew Desjardins-Mike Brown
Defense:
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Jason Demers
Brad Stuart-Justin Braun
Scott Hannan-Dan Boyle

The Kings held an optional session Sunday morning, but the lines didn't change at practice the last few days:
Marian Gaborik-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams
Dwight King-Mike Richards-Jeff Carter
Tyler Toffoli-Jarret Stoll-Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford-Trevor Lewis-Jordan Nolan
Defense:
Jake Muzzin-Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr-Slava Voynov
Willie Mitchell-Alec Martinez

A point of emphasis for the Kings over the past few days?

"Manage the puck better," said winger Dwight King. "They're a great transition team. They had a lot of odd-man rushes, some of it because of our sloppy play with the puck."

Added Sutter: "We want to hang on to the puck more."

The Sharks expect a different Kings team Sunday night.

"They don't want to go down two games to nothing," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said Sunday morning. "So they'll be ready. But we'll be ready too. They'll play a little bit different, but we'll play different too."

Which means likely a more low-scoring game the rest of the series.

"Yeah, we figure it's going to be 2-1-type scores," said Thornton. "I doubt we'll score five on them again tonight. Just be prepared for a tight-checking game."
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers squandered a 2-0 lead as the Philadelphia Flyers rallied from behind with four unanswered goals for a 4-2 win over the Blueshirts on Sunday that tied the series 1-1 and sends the two teams back to Philly for Game 3 at Wells Fargo Center.

An undisciplined and defensively porous Flyers team was exposed in the first period, but recovered in the second to become the aggressors in the latter half of the game.


Philly's penalty-killing effort was superb, limiting the Rangers to just one goal in six power-play opportunities for New York. Anchoring the Flyers in net, backup netminder Ray Emery delivered a fine 31-save performance to prove himself capable of handling the load with regular starter Steve Mason on the shelf with injury.

Mason, who has missed the first two games of the series, is hoping to make his return in Game 3, but Flyers coach Craig Berube may have a difficult decision on his hands once Mason returns to good health.

Redemption shot: Flyers rookie forward Jason Akeson got a sweet taste of redemption Sunday afternoon, with his rebound goal on a gaping net to knot the score at 2 in the second period. Akeson had a rough night in his NHL playoff debut in Game 1 on Thursday, taking a double-minor high-sticking penalty on Carl Hagelin that resulted in a pair of power-play goals for the Rangers. Nonetheless, Flyers coach Craig Berube expressed faith in the youngster, going right back to him on Sunday. Akeson started the game with linemates Matt Read and center Sean Couturier and continued to receive power-play time as well. His power-play marker at 5:45 on Sunday was his second career goal in only his fourth NHL game.

Fast and loose: The NHL’s most penalized team through the regular season was, unsurprisingly, not very disciplined once again. The Flyers gave the Rangers’ special teams plenty of work in the beginning of the game, putting them on the power play three times in the opening frame, twice on ill-advised offensive-zone penalties. The Blueshirts capitalized on only one of those man-up opportunities, when Benoit Pouliot’s flubbed shot from the right circle beat Emery for a two-goal lead at 8:22. That goal highlighted another major problem area for the Flyers: They gave the Rangers entirely too much room on the ice to execute the type of cross-ice feeds that set up Pouliot and resulted in Martin St. Louis’ first playoff goal of the series earlier in the period. The Flyers failed to clog up the passing lanes and paid for it dearly as the Blueshirts jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

There they are: Largely ineffective in Game 1, the Flyers’ first line came alive late in the first period with an expert rush that allowed them to cut the Rangers’ lead in half at 2-1. Sprung by linemate Scott Hartnell, skilled winger Jakub Voracek blew past defenseman Ryan McDonagh (how rarely does that happen?) and beat Lundqvist for his third career playoff goal with 5:46 remaining in the first period. Voracek and first-line center Claude Giroux were both held without a shot in Game 1 on Thursday.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Flyers, Game 2

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
10:00
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NEW YORK -- A few things to keep an eye on in Game 2 between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday at noon ET:

At a glance: The Rangers hold a 1-0 series edge against the Flyers after a 4-1 win Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. The Flyers, who have dropped nine straight games at MSG, look to reverse their fortunes Sunday afternoon as they aim to tie things up before the series shifts back to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4.

Mason out: The Flyers will play their second game without starting goaltender Steve Mason, who is recovering from an upper-body injury sustained in Philadelphia’s penultimate regular-season game on April 12. Backup netminder Ray Emery, who made 32 of 36 saves for Philly on Thursday, is back between the pipes for Game 2. Mason, who practiced for the second straight day on Saturday, said he is still hoping to make his return this series. He’s currently targeting Game 3 as his goal.

Coming up short: Regardless of who is in net for the Flyers, they’ll need a much better effort up front, particularly from their top line of Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Both Giroux and Voracek were held without even a shot on goal Thursday night, as Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist yawned through a game that required him to face a mere 15 shots.

Veteran presence: Rangers 33-year-old center and alternate captain Brad Richards led the way Thursday night, tallying the go-ahead goal and picking up two assists in the team’s playoff opener. The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner hopes to sustain such production moving forward, and the Rangers will need it. Also look for top-line winger Rick Nash to have an impact. Though the star forward finished with only one assist on Thursday night, he was active in generating chances, leading the team with seven shots on goal. And though Martin St. Louis has struggled to score since landing in New York on trade deadline day last month, playoff hockey is where this type of player usually shines. Who steps up in Game 2 for the Rangers? Or will it be the Flyers’ forwards who assert themselves in the Sunday matinee? Stay tuned ...
NEW YORK -- With the Philadelphia Flyers sorting out their goaltending situation -- starter Steve Mason declared himself out for Game 2 on Sunday (click here for the full story) -- the New York Rangers have paid little attention to what is happening on the other side of the series.

Regardless of which goaltender is in net each game -- Mason or Ray Emery, the Rangers feel no need to deviate from the plan that propelled them to a 4-1 win against the Flyers in Game 1 on Thursday night.

They have a blueprint moving forward, and they plan to stick with that as much as possible.

“We know our game plan works if we all buy into it,” said top-line winger Rick Nash.

Nash helped spark that effort against Emery Thursday night with a team-high seven shots on goal against the Flyers backup. He picked up one assist by game’s end and said he hopes to drive the net even harder in Game 2.

“We have the same game plan. To get traffic, try to shoot from all angles. No matter what goalie you’re playing, you’re going to have to out-work him to score,” Nash said.

By comparison, the Flyers’ top line struggled to create chances, with both captain Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek failing to register a shot on goal.

The team had a decent start against the Rangers in hostile territory at Madison Square Garden, but the forecheck faltered and the Flyers ended up chasing play all night.

“In my mind, we didn’t play Flyers hockey,” said veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen.

So what is that exactly?

“It’s more skating and hitting,” he said. “We’ve got to forecheck really hard.”

Look for the Flyers to be more aggressive in that facet of their game on Sunday, when they aim to even the series 1-1 before the best-of-seven set shifts back to Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, the Rangers will look to make some small adjustments as well.

“Five-on-five there were a couple of areas as far as getting more situations in front of the net,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said when asked where he’d like to see his team improve.

Indeed, if there was any area in which the Rangers struggled, it was the prolonged stretches in which they were kept to the perimeter.

That’s not ideal for the type of pressure they’d like to create, obviously.

Instead, the Rangers aim to attack the middle of the ice and wreak havoc in front of Emery down low.

“If that’s not where we are, that’s where we need to get,” said veteran center Brad Richards, who finished Thursday’s game with a goal and two assists.

The Rangers sealed the game with a pair of power-play goals on Thursday, but Richards admitted it could’ve gone the other way had the team not killed off a huge penalty at the beginning of the third period.

Richards said the team expects much more from the Flyers on Sunday. And the Rangers will be ready.

“This is where we have to realize the level is going to go way higher and we can’t get caught resting on Game 1,” Richards said. “It’s a whole new game. It’s going to be a whole new speed, intensity level and we’ve got to rise to that.”

Getzlaf stars after life-changing 48 hours

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
2:10
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Chin heavily bandaged, cheek scraped raw and eyes bloodshot red, Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf took the ice Friday night against the Dallas Stars looking far worse for wear than your typical NHL player after just one playoff game.

But most don’t experience in a season what Getzlaf went through in the previous 48 hours.

The 28-year-old team captain shook off the pain and discomfort of taking a slap shot to his face in Wednesday’s opener of the Western Conference quarterfinals and the emotions that accompanied the birth of his daughter in the wee hours Friday morning, producing a goal and assist in the 3-2 victory against the Stars and helping the Ducks to a 2-0 series lead heading back to Dallas for Game 3.

"He’s a leader on this team for a reason," linemate Corey Perry said.

Getzlaf said the only hurdle he needed to get past in order to play in Game 2 was the X-ray that revealed his jaw wasn’t broken after he took a vicious slap shot off the upper chin from Tyler Seguin in the closing seconds of Wednesday’s 4-3 win.

Then, late Thursday night, as he and his wife, Paige, were getting ready to turn out the lights, she went into labor. About 2½ hours later, they added Willa to the family, who joins sons Ryder and Gavin. Getzlaf was ready to settle into the hospital room for the night, but Paige had other plans.

"Once she was settled, she made sure I went home and got a little bit of rest so that I can play tonight," he said. "Once I went through the warm-ups and those kinds of things -- and got my feet under me -- it was OK."

Getzlaf laid a hit on Alex Goligoski on his first shift, which he said "helps get those little nerves out of the way." After the Stars took a 1-0 lead, Getzlaf then made a play so typical of his career when he stole the puck from left wing Erik Cole and beat goalie Kari Lehtonen up high to knot the score at one with just more than two minutes left in the opening period.

"That was huge," Perry said. "What a great play by him, stealing the puck and scoring on that. That’s the type of player he is, and he showed what he can do."

After Perry scored in the second period to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead, Getzlaf helped provide a crucial two-goal cushion when he hooked up with center Andrew Cogliano for a short-handed goal in the third period.

Cogliano was battling for the puck with Dallas defenseman Sergei Gonchar behind the net when Gonchar’s stick broke. Getzlaf and Cogliano still had four Stars they had to work around, but Getzlaf managed to get the puck back to Cogliano, who put the puck high in the net for a 3-1 advantage.

Getzlaf's night even impressed teammate Teemu Selanne, who has some experience with playoff points (83) and children (four).

"The last 24 hours, what has happened to him, that shows a lot of character," Selanne said. "He’s Mr. Incredible. … It took him a long time to realize he can be the best player in the league, but he’s finally got it."

Rapid Reaction: Ducks 3, Stars 2

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
12:58
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Here's a quick look at the Anaheim Ducks' 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars in Game 2 of their Western Conference quarterfinal at Honda Center on Friday.

How it happened: The Ducks pinned the Stars in their end for a solid 2½ minutes late in the second period, taking advantage of the aging legs of almost-42-year-old Ray Whitney and just-turned-40 Sergei Gonchar. The Stars finally got the puck out of their end and managed to keep the pressure on the Ducks for a stretch, but Tyler Seguin made an errant pass across Dallas' blue line to Jamie Benn, who was drifting away from the puck. Benn could only tip the rubber as it skidded in front of him, not enough to prevent Corey Perry from swooping in and taking possession with a full head of steam motoring toward the Dallas goal. Trevor Daley was between Perry and Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, and that probably made Perry even more determined -- in the first period, Daley straddled Perry as he laid on his back in the Dallas crease and got off a few blows before he was banished to the penalty box. Perry cocked and blasted the puck from just inside the right circle, past Lehtonen on the stick side for a 2-1 lead the Ducks would not relinquish.

What it means: The Ducks had to hold off some late pressure from the Stars -- including a power play that began with three minutes left, giving Dallas a two-man advantage for the final 30 seconds when it pulled its goalie -- but Anaheim owns its first 2-0 series lead since the opening round of the 2009 playoffs against the San Jose Sharks and has won two straight playoff games for the first time since winning Games 2 and 3 of the following series against the Detroit Red Wings, a series the Ducks would eventually lose in seven games.

Player of the game: Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf had an interesting 48 hours leading up to Game 2. He took a puck to the upper chin in the final seconds of Wednesday’s victory in the series opener, which opened a gaping wound that required numerous stitches. He then spent most of Thursday night and early Friday in the hospital, as his third child was born just before 1 a.m. local time. Neither experience proved too much for Getzlaf, who took the ice Friday night and started things off with a big hit on Alex Goligoski in the opening 30 seconds. He later came through with an unassisted goal in the opening period, which tied the score at one, about 30 seconds after Daley had escaped the box following his roughing penalty on Perry. Getzlaf also assisted on Andrew Cogliano’s short-handed goal in the third period, which gave Anaheim a 3-1 lead.

Stat of the game: Perry, one of only two NHL players with at least 20 goals at home during the regular season, scored the 19th playoff goal of his career -- but first since April 20, 2011 -- in Game 4 against the Nashville Predators.

What’s next: The series moves on to Dallas, where the Stars will host the Ducks in Game 3 on Monday. Anaheim will be looking to take its first 3-0 series lead since the opening round of their Stanley Cup championship run in 2007.
Alain Vigneault, John TortorellaGetty ImagesAlain Vigneault and John Tortorella have very different coaching styles.
NEW YORK -- Two years ago, the New York Rangers made it to the Eastern Conference finals playing a distinct, rugged brand of hockey that reflected the personality of their fiery coach, John Tortorella.

Now?

Tortorella’s sharp tongue and demanding system have been replaced by the more affable, even-keel Alain Vigneault. There are no epic outbursts or profane postgame tirades.

If Vigneault is outwardly aggressive about anything, it’s his overzealous gum-chewing behind the bench.

The two coaches are more or less polar opposites, and their brands of hockey indicate as much.

The Rangers are still a successful hockey club, but in an entirely different way now. Whereas Tortorella’s clubs were a bruising, blue-collar bunch whose strict adherence to shot-blocking bordered on religious, Vigneault’s squad embraces speed and skill and opportunism.

Shorter shifts, fresher legs and less line-matching have amounted to a winning strategy for the Rangers, who have done well at rolling a balanced four lines with the best NHL record since March 28.

“Some players are capable of playing big minutes and the more minutes they play, the better they are,” Vigneault told reporters Friday. “Some of the better players, though, if you get them past a point it seems their effectiveness on the ice drops. So you as a coach has to figure out as the season goes on and as the years go on: who can play more minutes and who can’t.”

In Vigneault’s first season as head coach, the Rangers also finished the regular season as one of the top six teams in important puck possession metrics like Corsi and Fenwick (according to ExtraSkater.com) and asserted themselves as such in their series opener against the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday night.

The Rangers gained a territorial edge early against the Flyers, pelting Flyers backup goaltender Ray Emery with pucks and testing his mobility post-to-post. They outshot Philadelphia by an overwhelming margin in the third -- 13-1. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time the Rangers allowed one shot or none in one period in a playoff game since May 7, 1994.

Defensively, they contained the Flyers' top line of Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, holding the latter two players without a shot on goal, and they stifled a threatening power play that ranked first overall in the league with a road success rate of 25.2 percent.

Essentially, they controlled all facets of the game.

“There was no other thought than to keep controlling the puck and keep trying to get it behind them,” said veteran center Brad Richards, who led the way in Game 1 with a goal and two assists.

Chasing the play frustrated the Flyers; it wore them down as well.

“When you’re chasing the puck for the majority of the game, you’re going to end up losing a lot of energy,” Hartnell said on a conference call with reporters Friday.

That leaves Flyers head coach Craig Berube with his work cut out for him. Berube said Friday that he planned on making some tweaks to his game plan, possibly to his lineup as well.

But the key to Philadelphia’s success is less about minutiae or tactics, and more about will.

“We need to play better with and without the puck and that to me involves skating. We need to skate better,” Berube said.

Berube said the Rangers overloaded against the Flyers in the corners, allowing them to win countless puck battles. That doesn’t happen if the team is skating as it should.

Nor will the Flyers have to revert to the dump-and-chase approach if they can get their legs moving and activate from the back end.

“We make better plays coming out of our end and we will carry the puck in more,” Berube said. “It didn’t seem like we made very good plays coming out of our end. Our D wasn’t active on the rush. We basically had no choice but to put the puck in deep because we didn’t have numbers on the rush.”

The Rangers will likely try to execute the exact same game plan on Sunday afternoon, a strategy of which the Flyers are well aware.

Now it’s up to Philadelphia to adjust with the potential of a 2-0 series hole looming.

“We all know we can play better,” Hartnell said. “We just have to focus and get our energy back.”

In the wake of Thursday's triple-overtime game between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of their opening-round series, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma was asked about the longest playoff game he'd been involved with as a player.

As it turns out, Bylsma actually didn't play in the longest playoff game. But it was back in 2003, when he was a member of the Anaheim Ducks, playing for current Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock against the Dallas Stars in the first game of the Western Conference semifinals, and the Ducks defeated the Stars on Petr Sykora's goal early in the fifth overtime period.

"I have been hit a lot in the head, so my facts might be a little bit messed up, but I think it was the beginning of the fifth overtime. J.S. Giguere was the goalie, Petr Sykora was on that team, Adam Oates,” Bylsma recalled. "What I remember is J.S. Giguere's always had ... he loses a lot of weight during games. He's had dehydration problems during games, and I remember him getting IVs in between periods, and I remember the shift length of the beginning of the last overtime. It was the second shift of the overtime that the game ended on the goal.

"The first shift, Keith Carney was our defenseman. We won the draw, he shot the puck off the wall to their defenseman, it came back to him, he shot the puck back to our forwards, who went into the zone and he changed. It was the beginning of the period; we'd just rested for 15, 18 minutes, and all he had in him was about 20 seconds of just shooting the puck up back and forth, and he got off the ice and we scored that subsequent shift. And I remember thinking, I don't know if this could have gone any longer."

Game 2 or not Game 2, that is the question

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
2:38
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Importance of Game 2? Friday night is Game 2 for the Canadiens-Lightning and Stars-Ducks. Since 1987, when all Stanley Cup playoff series went to the best-of-7 format, Game 2 winners have won 71 percent of all series (277 of 390). However, in last year's playoffs, Game 2 winners won only eight of the 15 series contested.
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NEW YORK -- Brad Richards spent the last two games of the Rangers’ playoff run last spring in the most undesirable spots imaginable for an NHL player, let alone a well-respected veteran.

Having already suffered through the indignity of being relegated to the fourth line, the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner was then forced to watch helplessly from Boston’s TD Garden press box as the New York Rangers’ 2013 season came to an unceremonious end in the team's second-round series against the Boston Bruins.

Richards doesn’t like to talk about last year, but you can bet that painful experience was on his mind heading into the Rangers’ playoff set against the Philadelphia Flyers this week.

And judging by his performance in Thursday’s series opener at Madison Square Garden, he won’t have to worry about spending any more time watching from above.

“I really don’t need to talk about last year,” Richards said. “I’ve had lots of good years. I don’t need to talk about one bad one.”

The 33-year-old center led the way for the Blueshirts to take Game 1 against the Flyers, 4-1. He scored the go-ahead goal and picked up two assists in a critical third period that was the difference against their Metropolitan Divisional foes, who have now lost nine consecutive games at MSG.

[+] EnlargeBrad Richards
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsBrad Richards tallied three points in the Rangers' Game 1 win on Thursday night.
With Flyers rookie Jason Akeson in the box for a double-minor high-sticking penalty, Richards snapped a 1-1 tie at 8:22 of the third period, beating Flyers goaltender Ray Emery after the backup netminder’s otherwise-solid effort for the majority of the game. Richards then crafted a beautiful feed to hit center Derek Stepan back-door for another man-up marker less than a minute later.

“One goal was huge, but to be able to go back out there and get the other one, obviously that won us the game,” Richards said.

Richards, who was a prime buyout candidate last summer (and still might be with the whopping cap penalties his contract poses), has delivered an inspired response to last season’s letdown. After posting the ninth 20-goal season of his career, Richards started his 2014 playoffs strong with a three-point night against the Flyers.

“It’s huge. And he’s been doing it pretty consistently in big games this year when we need it,” said defenseman Ryan McDonagh. “It’s great to see him step up and you can tell the way he’s hungry for more. And we’re going to need more out of him, too.”

Vigneault had to be encouraged by more than just Richards’ superior play. His team controlled the game against the Flyers, gaining the territorial edge early and dominating from a puck-possession standpoint throughout.

The Rangers, who finished among the top six NHL teams in both Corsi and Fenwick ratings (according to ExtraSkater.com), asserted themselves at home and didn’t deviate from their strength. This is no longer your John Tortorella Rangers. Instead, this is a Blueshirts squad that derives its identity from playing a style that exploits their collective speed and skill.

“When we play fast, when we go north-south quick, we are tough to handle,” Vigneault said. “That’s what we did tonight and that’s why we were able to have a pretty good game.”

Flyers coach Craig Berube wasn’t happy with what his team put forth, particularly after the first period. The forecheck faltered, their top line was ineffective, and their discipline clearly went out the window in the final frame.

“I didn’t feel we skated well enough in any of the periods,” Berube said.

Even after being outplayed through two periods, the Flyers did have a prime opportunity to take the lead and flirt with stealing Game 1 when McDonagh took a high-sticking penalty early in the third period.

That penalty put the NHL’s most dangerous power-play road unit (25.2 percent success rate during the regular season) on the ice with the game tied at 1. However, the Flyers were held without a single shot on goal, which prompted a boisterous response from the New York crowd.

The ineptitude extended beyond special teams as well. Both Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, the most potent tandem on the Flyers’ top line, finished without a shot the entire night.

"They didn’t produce. They didn’t shoot pucks. They didn’t get shots on net. They didn’t attack," Berube said. "We weren’t getting enough action at the net."

Berube didn’t treat Akeson with kid gloves, either. When asked about the rookie’s costly mistake, he was blunt in assessing the game-changing power-play that resulted when Akeson lost control of his stick and cut Hagelin in the mouth.

“He’s got to be better with his stick.” Berube said.

Akeson played a solid game -- only the third of his NHL career -- but he won’t remember it that way. After the game, he said his teammates tried their best to pick him up after the devastating gaffe.

"They all had my back and they were all saying that it’s a seven-game series and you’ll forget it [easily]," Akeson said. "That’s the beauty of this sport. There are six more games that we can win. It’s not down to one game. We are just going to look forward to the next one."

That will be this Sunday, which will again be at MSG. Will Emery be back between the pipes for the injured Steve Mason? Mason appears to be making progress in his recovery from an upper-body injury sustained last Saturday, though his status for Game 2 remains uncertain.

Regardless of who is in net, the Rangers will be ready.

"Philly is going to come hard," said Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello, who scored the Rangers' first goal. "We have to try and play the same way."
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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.
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Antti Niemi gets the start in goal Thursday night for the San Jose Sharks, who will also welcome the return of Raffi Torres to the lineup for Game 1 of their first-round series with the rival Los Angeles Kings.

Head coach Todd McLellan had been noncommittal over the past few days about his starting goaltending but revealed after Thursday's skate that there was never any debate internally.

"Niemi's our guy," McLellan said.

Meanwhile, the lines from the morning skate:
Joe Pavelski-Joe Thornton-Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau-Logan Couture-Matt Nieto
Tomas Hertl-James Sheppard-Tommy Wingels
Raffi Torres-Andrew Desjardins-Martin Havlat
On defense:
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Jason Demers
Brad Stuart-Justin Braun
Scott Hannan-Dan Boyle

The skinny:
--Havlat being on the fourth line certainly created a bit of buzz at the morning skate. At least to start Game 1, McLellan feels rookie winger Nieto is a better fit on Couture's line. Mike Brown also took some line rushes on that fourth unit instead of Havlat, so I suspect the Sharks coaching staff will debate between Havlat and Brown for that spot. Havlat, though, can also be spotted on the second power-play unit if he's in the lineup.
--Pavelski stays on Thornton's big line, where he scored most of his 41 goals this season. This will be a continuing storyline all series as far as whether McLellan puts Pavelski back as a No. 3 center or not. But for now, he starts the series on the top line. Pavelski still takes a number of strongside draws while playing on that line, so it's not as if the Sharks wouldn't use his faceoff skills, even if he’s playing wing.
--Rookie Hertl starts on the third line but eventually you figure he might be back with Thornton and Burns at some point in this series if he shows that he's becoming comfortable in his return. He played the last two regular-season games after missing most of the season with a knee injury, which required surgery.
--Torres, who hasn't played since March 8, played only five games this season after also needing knee surgery. I doubt he's 100 percent, but at this time of year you play with what you have. He was an effective player for the Sharks last spring, particularly on the forecheck; we'll have to see how long it takes him to get up to speed.

As for the 2012 Cup champions, everything was as expected at the morning skate:
Marian Gaborik-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams
Dwight King-Mike Richards-Jeff Carter
Tyler Toffoli-Jarret Stoll-Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford-Trevor Lewis-Jordan Nolan
Defense:
Jake Muzzin-Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr-Slava Voynov
Willie Mitchell-Alec Martinez

Richards had a down year in the regular season, but his track record suggests this is when he steps up.

"Mike Richards is our most experienced forward in the playoffs," Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said after his team's morning skate. "He plays his best at this time of year."

Let's drop the puck; this series should be sensational.

"A lot of similarities" between the teams, Sutter said. "The last few years, playoffs, regular season, both teams are very close."

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