A great week ended in disappointment for the Rangers as they were defeated by the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-1. A lot of it had to do with the fact that the Flyers are a deeper team, but the Rangers did not look like the team they did when they defeated the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins earlier in the week. Defensive mistakes cost them and offensive chances were limited. I felt like there was not enough push from the away team, but again, Philadelphia is stronger and weathered any storm the Rangers threw their way.
The game started slow since both teams were sort of feeling each other out. The Rangers got into some penalty trouble, though, when Sean Avery dropped the gloves to fight Daniel Carcillo, and Carcillo wisely stood there with his on. That only started the parade to the penalty box, as the Blueshirts would take three more penalties in the first period after that. Luckily for them goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stood on his head, making eleven saves to keep the game scoreless through the first twenty minutes. New York was dominated in this period and were fortunate to come out of it in a tie.
The Rangers came out quicker on the puck in the second period and were moving their legs. This earned them some powerplays of their own, but they were not able to convert on any of them. At 6:59, with Nik Zherdev just exiting the penalty box, Mike Richards flung a pass all the way up ice to lead Zherdev for a breakaway. The former Blueshirt made a smooth backhanded move to beat Lundqvist and give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. The Rangers were caught defensively on this play and Richards made a marvelous pass. It was a play that had goal written all over it.
The Flyers cushioned their lead early in the third when Andreas Nodl scored off a pass from Claude Giroux. The Rangers would answer back when Alexander Frolov fought hard to feed Derek Stepan in front for the tap-in, finally getting the boys in white on the board. With the score now 2-1, there was a fighting chance we could have seen another comeback, but Philly coach Peter Laviolette took a timeout and made sure that didn't happen. His team got the message and scored two more goals, Leino the first, Zherdev the second, to secure a 4-1 victory in today's game.
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Henrik Lundqvist was rock solid in goal today. He is the reason that this game was not a blowout and gave the Rangers a chance to win. The defense in front of him did not provide for much help as they forced him to stop 35 shots (out of the 39 he faced). It is just not fair when he stands on his head like that and does not get rewarded for it. And the sad thing is that it happens quite often.
Michael Del Zotto and Michal Rozsival were atrocious on defense this afternoon. Del Zotto's turnover that led to a Flyer goal saw him ride the pine for the remainder of the tilt. Rozsival, too, turned the puck over frequently, but time after time was bailed out by Lundqvist. I do not know how they expect to come away with a win against the best team in the Conference playing careless hockey like that. Maybe it is time for Del Zotto to take another trip to the press box on Thursday against Tampa Bay.
And where is Marian Gaborik? I know: not on the scoresheet, that's where. It is time he is called out once again. He is not skating well with the puck at all, he does not look confident and the turnovers per game are starting to add up. He is the team's top skater, but certainly is not playing that way. Big players are supposed to make big plays in games like these. Marian was nowhere to be found. Again, I still think he is playing with an injury, but even so, the effort has to be better on both sides of the puck.
Brandon Prust, Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko created majority of the Rangers' scoring chances in this contest. They were reunited today for the first time in a while and made a huge impact. They grind and fight hard, which is something many of their teammates did not do today. They deserved at least a goal, but Brian Boucher did make some key stops on them throughout the game. That is a line that I would keep together, because they bring a lot of energy to the ice.
Erik Christensen and Alexander Frolov also played very well today. Like I said, there was not much doing for New York on the offensive side of things, but these two did get some chances and made things happen with the puck. Also, Christensen made a couple of hard-working defensive plays while backchecking.
Dale Weise was impressive in his NHL debut. His goal that was disallowed due to a supposed "distinct kicking motion" should have counted. Secondly, he can really throw around his body. He held up well in his scrap with Daniel Carcillo too, so he is a guy that I definitely think Tortorella will use in the future. But for now, it has been announced that he has been returned to the Connecticut Whale (AHL).
As frustrating as it may be, this loss is not the end of the world. The Flyers are a much better team than the Rangers and it showed this afternoon, especially in the third period. The Blueshirts did not have the skill to break through Philly's defensive wall and make a comeback. They were overpowered and have to accept that. What is annoying, though, is that they do not play again until Thursday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden. This will be a long next four days.