NEW YORK, N.Y. – Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t suppress a grin when asked to assess teammate Brandon Prust starting a fight a mere four seconds into the New York Rangers’ 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
“Here we go,” said the Rangers goalie, who stopped 29 shots for his 37th career shutout and second this season. “That’s how it always is for Rangers-Flyers. That definitely set the tone and we didn’t let up. We played a really strong game.”
The victory, New York’s sixth straight at home, helped the Rangers continue their best Madison Square Garden start in nearly 20 years, improving to 6-1-1. Brad Richards scored a power-play goal early in the second period and rookie Carl Hagelin netted his first NHL goal five minutes into the third as New York improved to 12-5-3 overall.
Lundqvist—who is 7-1-0 in November and 9-4-3 this season—is third on the Rangers’ list for regular-season shutouts, three behind Dave Kerr. His best stop came 1:37 into the game, when he denied Scott Hartnell on a breakaway.
“I feel like we really shut them down. I think we played with a lot of confidence and we made it really tough for them to create chances,” Lundqvist added. “We did a really good job and I think we carried over the confidence from yesterday’s win over the Capitals.”
The scoreless first period featured a bout at centre ice off the opening faceoff between Prust and Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo. Prust said the first meeting of the season between the rivals who will meet in the Jan. 2 Winter Classic was sufficient incentive for him.
“It’s been a long time coming and we’ve been waiting for it. The game was a little more in the spotlight and everyone is looking forward to this Winter Classic,” said Prust, referring to the outdoor game at Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia. “It always feels a little more like a playoff atmosphere with Philadelphia.”
Richards broke the scoreless tie with a power-play goal 54 seconds into the second. His eighth tally of the season came on a slick passing sequence by defencemen Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi. Richards had a goal disallowed 24 seconds earlier when Ryan Callahan swiped the puck with his glove in front of Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Girardi has more assists (18) against the Flyers than any other team.
Hagelin knocked in a rebound at 5:06 of the third. The 23-year-old Swede made his NHL debut Friday at Washington after being recalled from Connecticut of the AHL earlier this week. The left wing was a sixth-round pick by the Rangers in 2007.
“I’m just going out and playing my game,” Hagelin said. “The puck bounced out to me and I just whacked it in.”
The Rangers’ torrid home start is their best since they began the 1992-93 season 7-1-1. Philadelphia lost for only the third time this season on the road. The Flyers fell to 13-7-3 overall.
New York leads the league in fewest goals allowed, giving up 41 through 20 games.
Rangers coach John Tortorella, who constantly preaches tight defence, was pleased with the club’s effort.
“I thought we brought our energy to another level today,” he said. “I thought we played really well away from the puck.”
It was the Rangers’ third-straight win against the Flyers, outscoring Philadelphia 12-2 in those contests. The Rangers beat the Flyers 7-0 in Philadelphia’s previous visit to New York on March 6.
“It seemed to me that the pop we need to play the game, it was not where it needed to be,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “When we did get shots, Lundqvist had no problem seeing them. I think we needed a better job of support getting guys to the net.”
Both teams played Friday and had to travel for the 2 p.m. start at the Garden. The Rangers beat the Capitals 6-3, while the Flyers downed the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Philadelphia.
Prust also fought Wayne Simmonds midway through the first.
Notes: The Rangers are four wins shy of 2,500 for a franchise that dates to 1926 . The Rangers have scored first in 12 of 20 games this season and are 11-1 in those contests . New York is tied with San Jose for fewest regulation losses this season with five . Flyers forward and former Ranger Jaromir Jagr was scratched because of a groin injury . Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger also missed the game as herecovers from a virus . Rangers defenceman Marc Staal remained sidelined with concussion-related headaches.