Flyers Win in Manhattan, 4-2
In an effort to grow the sport of hockey to the United States, NBC designated Sunday ‘Hockey Day in America’. The team from the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed met with one of America’s original six franchises in the nation’s most recognized city. In the matchup, the Philadelphia Flyers improved to 4-0-0 against the New York Rangers with a 4-2 victory.
With the lack of recent success the Rangers have had against the Flyers recently, it was no secret that they would burst out of the gates on Sunday. Not only did they do so, they did it in impressive fashion. The Blueshirts from Broadway carried play to start the game, and were rewarded with 7:17 remaining in the first period. Wojtek Wolski found a loose puck after some sustained offensive pressure and beat Brian Boucher for the game’s first tally.
Although the Rangers had controlled play for much of the period, the Flyers found a way to even the score with a little less than four minutes remaining in the period. Claude Giroux threw a backhanded shot on net and Jeff Carter found the puck on the way to the net. Carter deflected it by Henrik Lundqvist for his 27th goal of the season and knotted the game at one. Neither team would find the back of the net in what was left of the first stanza.
Philadelphia was outshot 14-9 in the first period, but with a tied score going into the second period, they started to ratchet up the offense pressure on. The increased pressure paid dividends. A little under 13 minutes into the period, the Flyers found an all too elusive power play goal. Carter was robbed of his 28th goal by Lundqvist at point-blank range, but he found Giroux with a pass off the rebound. Giroux shot to the top shelf over New York’s sprawling net-minder and gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead.
If the power play goal was unexpected, the team’s next marker could be considered a sign of the apocalypse. Daniel Carcillo beat Lunqvist with a spin-o-rama backhand shot from the right side of the Swedish goalie. With the two goal lead, the Flyers looked to be well on their way to another victory. But, this season the team has been known to take their foot off their opponents’ throats. For much of the third period, that defect held true.
New York threw the kitchen sink at the Flyers in the third period, and eventually they got the game to a one goal deficit. Derek Stepan took a loose puck on the doorstep of the net and tapped it in for the Rangers’ second tally. The puck caromed off the back wall and went through Boucher right to Stepan’s stick. With 14:32 left to go in the game, the Flyers would have to find a way to hold back their hungry rivals.
One thing that didn’t help the Flyers in the third period was the early loss of Sean O’Donnell to injury. The team’s sixth defenseman only skated for 1:03 in the game, and left the game due to a lower body injury that was sustained in a battle along the boards. Without him, the Rangers put a hefty barrage of shots on net. Boucher somehow withstood shot after shot until the home team pulled Lundqvist with a little over a minute to play. The newest Flyer on the ice slammed the door shut on the Rangers in his first taste of Atlantic Division play. Kris Versteeg scored on the empty New York net with 45 seconds remaining in the game and the team skated away with their 20th road win of the season and 39th on the season.
Despite being outshot 39-24, the Flyers once again made the most of their chances and leaned heavily on Boucher. It was fitting that the goalie who hails from Rhode Island would be the savior of one of the United States’ most popular franchises on Hockey Day in America. For the sport to thrive in the States, days like Sunday are necessary to grow the NHL’s fan base.
However, there was one thing that first time viewers shouldn’t expect the next time they tune in to a Flyers game. Sunday’s game was only the third time in franchise history that the team didn’t take a penalty in a regular season contest.