NEW YORK – Sean Avery was all talked out after popping in two goals following a one-game benching.
The noted agitator had little to say after leading the Rangers to a key 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers that gave New York’s late-season playoff push a much-needed confidence boost.
Long after the Rangers’ dressing room had cleared out, Avery emerged and spoke briefly while never breaking stride.
“Great game. Great two points. Thanks for waiting, guys,” Avery said.
And that was it.
“The thing I liked about his game, he let his play do his talking,” said coach John Tortorella, who sat Avery for the Rangers’ win at Atlanta on Friday. “That is very important.”
Avery returned and raised his hard-edge style to the level Tortorella demanded. He got the Rangers even in the second period and drew three penalties, including two resulting in power plays.
“I don’t know if that worked,” Tortorella said of the benching. “You guys get a little crazy with all that stuff as far as the motivation. Sean concentrated. He deserves the credit in the things he does.”
Michal Rozsival scored the go-ahead goal in the second period as the Rangers climbed within one point of eighth-place Boston in the Eastern Conference playoff race. New York also shelved urges to retaliate against Dan Carcillo, who fought star forward Marian Gaborik in the teams’ previous meeting on Jan. 21 and drew the Rangers’ ire.
“If they want to play a physical game, we’re going to play physical right back,” said forward Brandon Dubinsky, who fought Flyers captain Mike Richards in the third period. “If they want to mix it up, then we’re going to mix it up. We’ve got guys in here that are willing to do that and guys that are good at it.
“We’re not going to back down. We’re going to continue to fight, scratch and claw each and every game to find a way to get into the playoffs.”
Avery gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead with 5:54 remaining when his unscreened shot somehow eluded Michael Leighton’s glove and left the goalie hanging his head. Henrik Lundqvist needed to make only 17 saves for the win. New York recorded 21 shots.
The Rangers’ next task is a home meeting Tuesday with Montreal, which sits five points ahead in seventh.
“These are desperate times for us,” captain Chris Drury said.
Danny Briere scored his 24th goal 4:13 in for Philadelphia, which couldn’t build off its stirring home win in the final seconds against Chicago on Saturday. The Flyers then endured a seven-hour train ride through a strong storm and didn’t arrive in New York until after midnight.
Emotion and fatigue could have been a factor in Philadelphia’s lack of offence. With 76 points, the Flyers are tied with Montreal.
“It’s always tough when you’re on such a high to try to reproduce the same emotion the next day. But there is no excuse,” Briere said. “They came out. They wanted it more than us. They were more hungry. We have to realize that we haven’t clinched anything yet. Yes, we’ve put ourselves in a good position, but the way we came out we had no emotion.
“This time of the season games are too crucial. We can be tired when the season is over and the playoffs are over. Not at this point.”
After recording only four shots in an uninspiring first period, the Rangers took over in the second. Avery scored at 1:53 when he backhanded in a rebound of Wade Redden’s shot.
New York received only one power play in the first and failed to record a shot. The Rangers made the most of their second when Rozsival fired a shot in off the left post at 4:54.
The physical play and animosity expected in this game showed up in the second. Avery and Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger were whistled for penalties at 2:09 following a scrum that was sparked by Avery’s crunching hit on Matt Carle.
Avery then goaded Scott Hartnell into a roughing penalty with 2:30 left in the period. Hartnell grabbed hold of Avery and kept yanking him as Avery turned away.
“We got outworked,” Pronger said. “We played a desperate team. We knew they were desperate. We knew what they were coming in to do and we didn’t respond very well. I don’t think you can focus on (Avery) solely.”
New York received another power play earlier in the period when James van Riemsdyk crashed into Lundqvist while charging the net. Lundqvist was bowled over and lost his mask in the pileup. When he got up, he and Dubinsky checked the goalie’s head for blood.
Avery drew an interference call against Braydon Coburn early in the third and exchanged shoves with Carcillo.
NOTES: New York had gone 177 minutes seven seconds without scoring against Philadelphia, which won the first three meetings this season. … Flyers tough guy Riley Cote played for the first time since Dec. 21. He was scratched for 32 games since.