NEW YORK, N.Y. – On an afternoon when another New York team was on the minds of many fans at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers did their best to emulate the Giants by physically wearing down Philadelphia Flyers.
Artem Anisimov broke a 17-game pointless streak and Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves to stymie the Flyers as the Rangers beat Philadelphia 5-2 in a fight-filled contest which concluded three hours before the Super Bowl kickoff between the Giants and New England Patriots.
The Rangers beat the Flyers for the fourth straight time this season and sixth straight overall. Marian Gaborik, Michael Del Zotto, Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko also scored for Eastern Conference-leading New York.
“I think we know how important these games are,” said Gaborik, who scored his team-leading 26th goal of the season with five seconds left in the second period. “We have played very well against them this year and this game was one of them.”
Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds scored for the Flyers, which lost for the third time in four games. It was their first game against the Rangers since the Winter Classic in Philadelphia on Jan. 2.
“Our team could play better than we did,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s just frustrating. We had an opportunity to win a game and we didn’t.”
Lundqvist’s career-best shutout streak ended at 182 minutes, 37 seconds when Schenn scored in the second period, but the All-Star goaltender still improved to 24-14-4 on the season as fans at the Garden serenaded the Flyers with chants of “You can’t beat us” as time elapsed.
“Any time you can beat such a skilled team, it’s a great feeling,” Lundqvist said. “The fans were ready to go and everybody was excited to play Philly.”
Philadelphia was playing its fourth game in six days and the final of a weekend back-to-back. The Flyers lost 6-4 at home against New Jersey on Saturday.
“We just have to keep working, be more lucky and win the next game,” Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov said. “We didn’t deliver today.”
Anisimov opened the scoring at 1:04 of the first period. He also assisted on Gaborik’s second-period goal and Del Zotto’s go-ahead score at 1:33 of the third, which came 36 seconds after Simmonds tied it at 2. Dubinsky added an insurance goal at 12:15 and Fedotenko had an empty-netter at 18:44.
The Rangers are 16-4-1 in their last 21 games. Physical play, dynamic penalty killing and strong goaltending have led their surge. They’ve allowed a league-best 102 goals through 50 games.
“We are a sum of parts, that’s how we play and that’s the only way we can win,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “That’s the way we have to play and when another team joins in, it mounts.”
Gaborik’s goal—moments after he lay stunned on the ice behind the Flyers net following a hard check—put the Rangers ahead 2-1. Gaborik got up and slipped a backhand past Bryzgalov after defenceman Andrej Meszaros had levelled him with the hit.
Anisimov’s goal was his eighth of the season and came on a tip in of Dan Girardi’s slap shot. Anisimov’s previous point had been an assist Dec. 22 against the New York Islanders.
“I enjoy every shift on the ice,” the soft-spoken Anisimov said. “It was a huge game for us. Every game is important.”
Schenn tied it on a picture-perfect breakaway goal at 12:02 of the second. Just out of the penalty box, the 20-year-old centre took a pass from Jakub Voracek and beat Lundqvist by lifting a backhand over his glove hand.
The game was feisty as usual between the two rivals, who had the weeks leading up the Winter Classic chronicled by the cable network HBO.
Rangers defenceman Stu Bickel fought Simmonds in the first period and Tim Sestito in the second. Sestito also fought Dubinsky in the first and Brandon Prust in the third. Sestito was given an automatic game misconduct after his third fight.
“We were ready to play right from the start,” Bickel said.
The teams meet in Philadelphia on Feb. 11 and April 3.
Lundqvist’s shutout streak went back to the 19:11 mark of the second period Jan. 21 at Boston. The Swedish goaltender recorded consecutive shutouts for first time in his career with wins over Winnipeg Jan. 24 and Buffalo last Wednesday.
As far as Super Bowl plans, Lundqvist’s were aligned with most of the football-frenzied New York population.
“I’ll be watching with a buddy who is a huge Giants fan and I’ll be eating a lot of food,” the winning goaltender said.
NOTES: Philadelphia Fs Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk remained sidelined because of to concussions … The Rangers wore their Winter Classic white sweaters for the first time at home. … The Rangers are a league-best 24-1-2 when scoring first. … The Rangers have outscored the Flyers 24-8 in winning their last six contests. … Lundqvist has held opponents to two or few goals in 26 games this season.