If you put two ugly losses aside for the Philadelphia Flyers, their season series against the New York Rangers is competitive. Additional evidence came in the form of tonight’s contest between the two franchises.
The goaltender matchup favored the Flyers. Brian Elliott achieved first-star honors for his performance against the Rangers. It’s the second consecutive game Elliott has received a top-three stars honor.
Philadelphia had a little bit of weight off of their shoulders. Playoff hopes have evaporated, allowing the team to play a little looser. The Flyers don’t need to think about a win-streak. They’re figuring out what will work and what doesn’t before the offseason.
Tonight, Philadelphia continued to trend upward defensively while special teams improved drastically.
The first period belonged to the New York Rangers. They began the game fast-paced, pressing Elliott early on with shots on goal. Breaking up the Rangers’ dominant pace was the Philadelphia Flyers’ second line, featuring Wade Allison, Kevin Hayes, and Joel Farabee.
Brendan Smith struck first for the Rangers, jumping out to a 1-0 lead. After the Flyers killed a Philippe Myers penalty, Smith had one final shot before Philadelphia could set up even-strength. Before Myers regained position, Smith put a slapshot by Elliott. It was the only even-strength goal Elliott allowed.
On man-advantages, the Flyers were still giving away scoring chances. The Rangers should have scored a shorthanded goal, but Elliott made another phenomenal save. Instead of driving into the offensive zone, Philadelphia continued to dump the puck during even-strength scenarios. The trailing pace allowed the Rangers to set up their rink-wide offense. Down a goal, the Flyers needed to take control after the first intermission.
Philadelphia added zest to their game in the second period. It’s as if they used the first period to gauge the tendencies of the Rangers. The Flyers looked like the fresher of the two teams, playing with force and owning the puck in the offensive zone. Igor Shesterkin continued turning pucks away, but Philadelphia remained disruptive on the powerplay.
Travis Konecny and Smith, who scored a goal earlier, traded penalties in the second period. Each time the Flyers went on a powerplay, they gave it away by committing a penalty. Neither special team could convert an opportunity.
Finally, after the halfway point of regulation, Philadelphia scored a powerplay goal. James van Riemsdyk put one past Shesterkin the hard way. Ivan Provorov shot from the blue-line, and the puck deflected off of van Riemsdyk’s face. He took a play out of Wayne Simmonds’ former Flyers’ playbook. Similar to Simmonds, van Riemsdyk returned.
In the closing minutes of the second period, Farabee earned a penalty shot against Shesterkin. Shesterkin smothered Farabee, skating in close, to keep the game tied, 1-1.
Sean Couturier drew a double-minor for high sticking from K’Andre Miller. A four-minute powerplay would make or break this game, deadlocked at one goal apiece. If the Rangers killed the penalty, they would have all the momentum to win the game. The Flyers needed to cash in another powerplay goal.
One more time, van Riemsdyk scored on the powerplay. About fifteen minutes of regulation time removed from taking a puck to the face, he skipped another goal off his stick. Somewhere, Simmonds is giving van Riemsdyk a thumbs up and a smile.
Jakub Voracek stretched the lead, scoring the game-winner on an odd-man rush. He had Claude Giroux available for a one-timer but kept the puck for himself, beating Shesterkin.
Artemi Panarin cut the deficit to one goal, but Philadelphia hung on for the regulation victory, 3-2.
Next, the Philadelphia Flyers take on the New York Rangers in game two of their back-to-back at Madison Square Garden at 7pm. Coverage is available on NBC Sports Philadelphia and the NHL Network.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre