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New York's four first-period goals overwhelm Philly

3/8/2003

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Rangers are chasing points in a
desperate run for a spot in the playoffs every night.

On Friday, they had the Philadelphia Flyers chasing them all
night long.

Bobby Holik scored twice and Radek Dvorak assisted on three of
New York's four first-period goals in the Rangers' 5-1 victory over
Philadelphia.

''We were ready to play, they were not,'' Holik said.

Mike Dunham, who made 34 saves and was barely tested, was 1:41
away from a shutout when Marty Murray scored.

The rejuvenated Rangers are 3-0-2 on a season-best, five-game
unbeaten streak. The Flyers entered tied for the NHL lead in
allowing only 2.01 goals a game, but left with their four-game
winning streak over.

New York closed to four points of Boston and the New York
Islanders in the race for the seventh and eighth playoff spots in
the Eastern Conference. The Rangers were off since Monday and have
only 12 games left. The teams they are pursuing have 15 each.

The Rangers will close out a homestand, in which they are 3-0-1,
Monday against Florida. New York has not been in the playoffs since
1997.

''The next game is the biggest game of the year and that's the
way it's going to be for the rest of the year,'' captain Mark
Messier said.

Holik also wouldn't look past the next game.

''Any further than the Panthers, I have nothing to say,'' Holik
said. ''We still have to battle a long, hard road -- 12 games left.
We are nowhere near where we want to be.''

Dvorak set up goals by Jamie Lundmark, Holik and Petr Nedved as
the Rangers led 4-0 just 12:49 in. Lundmark, Holik and Dan
LaCouture scored on Roman Cechmanek. Nedved's short-handed goal
came against Robert Esche, who replaced an angry Cechmanek 9:06 in.

''We just try to play smart and play our hockey,'' Dvorak said.
''Maybe playing under pressure is helping.''

It matched the most goals in a period allowed by the Flyers this
season and tied the most scored by the Rangers, who outshot
Philadelphia 16-13 in the first 20 minutes. The Flyers won the
first three meetings between the teams and five in a row, dating to
last season. Philadelphia allowed a season-best 19 shots to New
York on Feb. 8.

''They were ready,'' Flyers forward Mark Recchi said. ''They
were sharp right off the bat. They wanted it more than us. They
deserved the win. We deserved what we got.''

Holik made it 5-0 with 3:13 left.

Since the Rangers acquired Alexei Kovalev on Feb. 10, they have
scored at least four goals in six of 12 games and are 7-3-2.

Cechmanek had gone 17 consecutive starts, dating to Jan. 13,
without allowing more than three goals. He gave up three goals on
11 shots to New Jersey in the first period Jan. 30 and was
pulled. Since then, he was 8-1-3 with three of his four shutouts
this season. Cechmanek was due to have Saturday off when the Flyers
play host to Colorado.

''We weren't very good in goal,'' Philadelphia coach Ken
Hitchcock said. ''The goals they scored were just too easy. We're a
team that has relied on goaltending and team play all year, and we
broke down.''

Lundmark got the Rangers going with a shot from above the left
circle at the six-minute mark. Holik, who also assisted on Lundmark's
goal, made it 2-0 just 2:38 later.

The lead grew to three at 9:06, seconds after Cechmanek was
bowled over. As LaCouture drove to the net, he was knocked into
Cechmanek by Philadelphia's Keith Primeau.

The goalie was struck in the mask and was down on his stomach as
the puck went behind the net. LaCouture got up, got the puck and
put it past the prone goalie. Hitchcock spent his timeout as a
trainer attended to Cechmanek.

Esche came on the ice as Cechmanek skated toward center ice to
yell at referee Dan O'Halloran.

Nedved made it 4-0 against Esche, who stopped six of seven shots
in the first period and 23 overall.

Game notes
Defenseman Chris Therien played his 634th game with the Flyers, moving
him past Rod Brind'Amour into eighth place on the team's career
list. ... Philadelphia left wing Simon Gagne returned after a 13-game
absence due to a groin injury. He reinjured himself in the second
period and didn't return. Gagne was on the ice for three of the
first four goals. ... The three points were a season high for
Dvorak, who has four multipoint games this season. Three assists
matches his career best. ... Messier was struck in the forehead by
a puck during warmups and needed at least eight stitches.