BY JAY BOEHMER, Staff Writer
The Flyers, who had shut out the Rangers in the previous two meetings, made a couple of changes towards a more physical lineup coming into today’s contest against their New York rivals. These included scratching Ville Leino and reactivating Riley Cote.
As the game started, it seemed to have worked. The line of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, and Danny Briere drew a penalty three minutes in. Briere ripped a shot from the slot that beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist through Hartnell’s impenetrable screen.
Not long into the second period, the ever-present thorn in the Flyers’ side, Sean Avery, slipped a rebound in past Michael Leighton for a tie game, 1-1. In the minutes that followed, Sean Avery led a series of scrums that kept the Flyers on the penalty kill.
That man advantage for the Rangers set up a goal by Michal Rozsival off a blast from the point that got by for a quick 2-1 lead.
From that point on through the third and final frame, the Flyers’ seemed off their game. The drive they showed in yesterday’s dramatic come from behind win simply wasn’t there. The Rangers’ – and especially Sean Avery’s – physical play got in their heads and kept them from playing the game they’re used to playing. That is one defined by a strong, aggressive cycling forecheck.
As if to add insult to injury, with only a few minutes left on the clock, Sean Avery took a far-off wrist shot that found its way past Leighton and increased New York’s lead to two goals at 3-1, the eventual final score.
Whether Philadelphia was still on a high from their last second win over the Blackhawks that ended less than 24 hours before this matchup, or whether their troubled road trip that saw the entire team stuck on a bus for over four hours late into the night brought them down, the players simply didn’t show up in this depressing loss from Madison Square Garden.
The Flyers had a chance, with a win in this game, to more or less seal a spot in the playoffs by putting themselves nine points above the 9th place Rangers with a game in hand going down the stretch. With how it turned out, however, they sit only five points ahead of New York and remain tied with Montreal for the 6th and 7th spots.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Scott Hartnell: While the stats don’t always show it, Scott Hartnell did a good job of playing his hardnosed brand of hockey while also maintaining a level of discipline.
Sean Avery: Sean Avery found the back of the net twice, generated three of the Rangers’ six power plays through his usual antics, and also drew a Flyer in to keep his team off the penalty kill in another scuffle.
Chris Drury: The Rangers captain picked up two assists and set up the screen that created the Michal Rozsival goal. This offensive contribution comes in addition to his usual strong, defensive play in New York’s 3-1 win.