NEW YORK, N.Y. – Broad Street Bullies? Not during this early outing at Madison Square Garden.
In a game that surely would have Philadelphia’s former bruisers Dave Schultz and Bob Kelly cringing, the Flyers shed their well-honed rough-and-tumble image—at least for one day—and skated off with a penalty-free 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Sunday.
Maybe it was the early start or a network audience looking in on the matinee as part of a day-long celebration of hockey in the United States that had the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers on their best behaviour. Philadelphia played a full game without committing a penalty for just the third time ever.
The Flyers came in averaging about 14 penalty minutes per game.
“It’s kind of out of the ordinary,” said forward Daniel Carcillo, who scored a rare goal and didn’t add to his total of 90 penalty minutes. “We kept it clean for Hockey Day in America, I guess.”
Claude Giroux and Carcillo scored second-period goals for the Flyers, who shook off an early deficit and the loss of injured defenceman Sean O’Donnell to top New York.
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead for the first time in eight games when Wojtek Wolski scored with 7:21 left in the first period, but Jeff Carter got the Flyers even. Carter and Giroux had a goal and assist each.
Despite outplaying Philadelphia in the first, the Rangers had only a tie to show for it. The tide turned in the second.
It didn’t help that the Rangers had to play the final two periods without top-line forward Marian Gaborik, who left the game because of a concussion, coach John Tortorella said. The most intriguing part is that Tortorella doesn’t believe the injury occurred Sunday.
“It didn’t happen this game. I’m not sure when it happened,” Tortorella said. “He’s been off and on. I don’t know when it happened.”
Gaborik, who complained to the team in recent days about not feeling well, was unavailable for comment. He had no shots in Friday’s 1-0 loss at New Jersey and one Sunday.
Once the Flyers broke open a tie game in the second, New York couldn’t muster a comeback without Gaborik and without the benefit of a power play.
Giroux took advantage of Wolski’s boarding penalty at 12:52 of the second, and Carcillo made it 3-1 with 3:34 left. Brian Boucher did the rest and finished with 37 saves—14 in the third period. The Flyers have won the first four of the six-game series against the Rangers, whose once seemingly secure playoff spot is slipping away.
“I’m upset because the way we played today is the way we need to play, but consistently,” forward Brandon Dubinsky said. “If we had been consistent today, maybe this would have been a small bump in the road with a lot of wins behind us. But that hasn’t been the case.”
Boucher had a rough few minutes early in the third, first when he was injured and then when Derek Stepan got the Rangers within 3-2 at 5:28.
During a scramble in front, Boucher collided with teammate Kimmo Timonen. He remained down on his stomach, flailing his legs, before gathering himself. Boucher said his right arm went numb because of a neck stinger, but the feeling returned quickly.
Stepan scored his 16th goal moments later when Dan Girardi’s shot took a funny bounce off the end boards and into the crease for a dunk shot.
Kris Versteeg sealed the win by scoring into an empty net with 45.3 seconds left.
“If you don’t have to waste energy killing penalties, you can exert it on different things,” Flyers captain Mike Richards said. “We kept our sticks to ourselves. We played physical, but we didn’t overstep our boundaries—which is tough to do against New York.”
The Rangers are 2-7-1 in their last 10 and are two points ahead of eighth-place Carolina. Buffalo, the team just below the post-season cutoff, is six points behind. The road to the post-season could get tougher if Gaborik misses a lot of time. He isn’t expected to make the trip to Carolina for Tuesday’s game.
Despite a down season, Gaborik is the biggest offensive threat for the Rangers, who have scored three goals or fewer 11 times in 13 games. New York has lost two straight after a two-game winning streak.
The Flyers have no need to look behind them. Philadelphia bounced back quickly following a 3-2 loss at Carolina on Friday and won for the sixth time in eight games to stretch its lead over second-place Tampa Bay to eight points.
Notes: O’Donnell sustained an undisclosed lower body injury on his only shift. He said the injury wasn’t serious. … Richards returned after missing one game (illness). … Giroux has 18 points in 16 games. Carter has 17 in the same span. … New York’s Henrik Lundqvist made 20 saves. … The Rangers went without a power play for the second time this season.