In a game that had all the makings of playoff hockey, two teams continued to fight for a chance at the post season. The Flyers needed two points out of this home and home series, while the Rangers needed all four.
Philadelphia opened the scoring with the best start they could have imagined, as Mike Richards intercepted a Marc Staal breakout pass and went in alone on Henrik Lundqvist, beating him to take the early 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately, the rest of the period was far from what the Flyers had hoped, as the Rangers controlled the play and capitalized on defensive breakdowns. The tying goal came on the power play after Dan Carcillo was sent off for four minutes for high sticking.
The go-ahead goal for the Rangers came after Mike Richards won the faceoff in the defensive end, but New York’s fourth line, energetic throughout the night, jumped on the Flyers’ defense and forced Braydon Coburn out of position as tough guy Jody Shelley put it in for his first goal of the season.
The Flyers played much better throughout the second, despite falling behind 3-1 to start. Danny Briere came back minutes later with a one time blast off the feed from Simon Gagne.
Nearly doubling the Rangers shots in the period, it seemed the Flyers had retaken control when Mike Richards found a way to get the puck past Lundqvist off a breakaway pass from quarterback Chris Pronger.
Unfortunately, the choppy ice at Madison Square Garden reared its ugly head as the puck bounced over Pronger’s stick, giving Marian Gaborik a fast break at Brian Boucher. To top it all off, his shot bounced off defenseman Matt Carle’s stick and over Boucher’s shoulder for the 4-3 lead going into the final period.
Through much of the final frame, the Flyers showed little to no urgency. An undisciplined penalty from Scott Hartnell slowed down any budding Flyers forecheck, keeping them from getting the offense going until the last five minutes or so. By then it was too late, as Henrik Lundqvist stonewalled every effort and sealed the win.
Looking forward, this Sunday’s final game is as simple as can be. If the Flyers win, they will clinch a playoff spot. If the Rangers win, they will clinch a playoff spot.
Given the way this team has played all season, there could be no other way to decide if they make the playoffs. As fate would have it, it comes down to the final game. The rivalry, New York/ Philadelphia has reached its boiling point. It does not get much better than this.
Win, you’re in. Lose, you go home. Perfect atmosphere for a quality hockey game.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Mike Richards: Taking the game into his hands, as a captain should, Mike Richards set the tone with an early goal. Unfortunately, he was unable to keep his team playing at that level for the full sixty minutes.
Marian Gaborik: The Rangers’ leading scorer for a reason, Gaborik put himself in position to capitalize on the Flyers’ defensive miscue for the game winning goal.
Henrik Lundqvist: The favored goalie in a Boucher-Lundqvist matchup, “King Henrik” came up big in this desperation win for his team. He made a handful of quality stops throughout, but none bigger than the game winning save on James van Riemsdyk as he kicked his pad out with about four and a half minutes left. All told, he stopped 24 of 27 Flyers shots on the night.
Notes: Jeff Carter played after missing the last eight games with a foot injury, however the return of his presence wasn’t enough.