The playoffs are all about having a short memory. After losing Game 2, the Rangers showed character to take back home ice. Facing a hostile environment, they responded with an emphatic 4-1 win over the Flyers in Game 3 at Wells Fargo Center.
It was exactly what the doctor ordered. Facing their first adversity, the Rangers did what they have all season. Road warriors under Alain Vigneault, they executed throughout despite being outshot 32-23. Henrik Lundqvist responded with a stronger effort in net making 31 saves. That included some key stops in the second period when the Flyers applied pressure. Similar to last game, the home team played controlled the stanza but didn’t capitalize. Instead, the Rangers got the only goal from Dan Girardi, who stood out earning number one star.
The Rangers got big bounce backs from Girardi and partner Ryan McDonagh. Defensively they were much better five on five and shorthanded. One of the themes thus far in the series has been special teams. The Flyers held the edge in Game 2. Neither team scored on the power play. But the Rangers killed off all five Philadelphia power plays. That included a couple of key ones when the Flyers were given every chance to get back in. Let’s just say the officiating wasn’t top notch.
For a second consecutive game, the Rangers jumped on Ray Emery by getting the first two. The top line struck twice. Derek Stepan converted his second from Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis to open the scoring. Discipline was an issue for Benoit Pouliot. His cross check negated a Ranger power play. That wasn’t the only bad penalty from him.
They were able to keep momentum initially. St. Louis put the Rangers up two when he deflected home a Girardi point shot for his second. In his first three postseason games, he has two goals and three assists. Exactly the type of production Glen Sather was expecting from a money performer. With his team on another man-advantage, it took Pouliot five seconds to cancel it when he took a holding minor in the offensive zone. Those are the kind that get you in trouble. During the ensuing four on four, the Flyers needed only 21 seconds to cash in. Ex-Islander Mark Streit took a Jakub Voracek feed and beat Lundqvist slicing the deficit in half with 2:42 left.
Not shockingly, MSG reporter John Giannone was told by the coaching staff they wanted to limit the penalties. For the first half of the second, neither side went to the box. It was mostly Flyers though. They put good pressure on forcing Lundqvist into some tough saves. They pinned the Rangers in for a couple of shifts but were unable to get any closer. One player who was a big hero was Daniel Carcillo. Inserted into the lineup for Jesper Fast, the former Flyer pest played a whale of a game. At the end of a shift, he kept a play alive allowing the Rangers to make a full change. It led to a momentum turning goal. Off a Marc Staal keep, Carl Hagelin worked the puck to Brad Richards, who found an open Girardi for a one-time blast to give them a two-goal lead.
Lundqvist made it stand up. When he wasn’t making timely stops, he had plenty of help from defensemen and forwards who blocked shots. Everyone sacrificed. It was like a Torts renaissance with the team blocking 28 altogether. That included Carcillo, whose diving block left him down momentarily. Flyer fans cheered. Unbelievable. A couple of shifts later, they booed after Carcillo took a Matt Read shoulder from the blind side and laid on the ice. He was able to get up thankfully. Somehow, neither Francis Charron or Paul Devorski called a penalty on the play.
But they allowed Voracek to pummel Carl Hagelin after he got entangled with the Flyers’ winger. During the stoppage, Carcillo got an extra two for roughing. He came to the aid of a teammate. Something this team doesn’t do enough. It was nice to see his teammates pick him up with a strong penalty kill. They also had to deal with one of those needless penalties from Derek Dorsett. Ironically, the Flyers have the worst home power play. They heard it from the crowd.
After escaping the second ahead two, the Rangers continued to play solid defense. Despite not testing Emery enough, they managed to shutdown the Flyers. They weren’t able to muster the kind of chances necessary to beat Lundqvist. After stopping all 13 in a busy second, he turned aside seven more in the third. Unlike Game 2, his rebound control was better. The effort never wavered.
Despite another woeful call on Carcillo for a phantom hook, the Rangers delivered a fifth successive penalty kill. As fate would have it, he would come out of the box and deliver the knockout blow. Brian Boyle made a perfect centering pass for a driving Carcillo, who neatly deflected it home. His celebration summed it up perfectly. One of the coolest things ever.
With the game decided, Craig Berube pulled Emery for Steve Mason, who no doubt will start Game 4 when the series continues Friday. Mason got the classic mock cheer the first time he touched the puck. He only saw three shots. That will change next time. Finally, the Flyers will have their starter back. Will it make a difference? We’ll see.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (31 saves incl. 20/20 last 2 periods)
2nd Star-Martin St. Louis, Rangers (goal-2nd of playoffs, assist, +1 in 17:26)
1st Star-Dan Girardi, Rangers (goal-1st of playoffs, assist, 5 blocks, +2 in 22:42)