It wasn’t easy because it never is. With this team, it’s how they do things. At one point, the Rangers led by three. But anyone who’s lived and died with them knows better. They held on to defeat the Flyers 4-2 in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.
Dominic Moore’s second goal of the series was the difference. A key component of the fourth line, he also set up Brian Boyle’s empty netter that finally sealed it with 15 seconds left. Ever since Moore and Boyle were put together, they’ve been inseparable. Their penalty kill work and attention to detail was crucial. It’s no surprise that both were factors in such a big win. What is surprising is they have three more goals than Rick Nash. Enough about that.
Overall, the Rangers were the stronger team for 60 minutes. Despite a sluggish start that saw the Flyers blow a few opportunities, they were superior in skating, puck possession and defensively. They were successful in spite of ref tandem Justin St. Pierre and Brad Watson, who tried their best to aid the Philly guests. There were a number of bad calls which drew the ire of MSG. That included a phantom whistle on Carl Hagelin after he didn’t touch Claude Giroux. It didn’t matter because of the PK was tremendous. They went 4-for-5 killing off the first four Flyer power plays.
After consecutive penalty kills of two Hagelin minors, the top line went to work. Derek Stepan got it started. He found Martin St. Louis, who backed up the Flyer defense and then made a nice drop for Marc Staal, whose wrist shot from the left circle eluded Steve Mason. His first of the series allowed the Blueshirts to go ahead at 11:53. One of the keys to a win was having one of their top defensemen contribute offensively. Staal picked a great time to deliver energizing the team.
The Rangers were unable to build upon it even though Vincent Lecavalier took a holding minor off the center ice draw. For a third consecutive game, the power play was a non-factor going 0-for-3. They’re 0 for their last 15. With a chance to close out the Flyers Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center, that ugly stat must change. What doesn’t is the brilliant play of Henrik Lundqvist. Sharp throughout, he made some critical stops prior to Staal’s goal and delivered a consistent performance finishing with 24 saves. He didn’t have to stand on his head but Hank was there when needed.
After a somewhat odd first period that saw them only muster six shots, the Rangers were sharper in the second. Harder on the puck, they began carrying the puck over the Flyers blue line with speed. Taking advantage of some turnovers, they created better chances. However, it was a Flyer near miss that led to the second goal. Craig Berube was forced to insert 39-year old veteran Hal Gill for the injured Niklas Grossmann. Only having played six games during the season, the big man had a glorious opportunity to tie it but missed from the slot.
The Rangers quickly transitioned the opposite way. With Scott Hartnell down behind the play, it allowed them to have a five on four. Alain Vigneault inserted J.T. Miller into the lineup for Daniel Carcillo. A gutsy move that worked. On the shift, he went to the net. After missing a set up, Miller forced Mason into a rebound which caromed right to Brad Richards, who sent home a backhand for his second increasing to 2-0 at 8:07. Hagelin did the grunt work behind the net picking up the secondary assist. Richards has been tremendous firing shots from everywhere. He’s been one of the team’s best players.
Leading by two, the Rangers had a pair of calls go against them. First, Kevin Klein was sent off for a mysterious unsportsmanlike conduct. I’m not even sure Sherlock Holmes could find it. Nevertheless, an aggressive penalty kill made quick work of the Flyer power play. They really did a superb job attacking the Flyers never letting them set up. In particular, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh stood out. As they have during the series, each had a defensive impact. The work of Staal and Anton Stralman was also strong.
Matt Read took a bad roughing minor that put the Rangers on their third man-advantage. After doing nothing on the first two, they had the misfortune of St. Pierre blowing the whistle too quickly that wiped out a goal. The play in question was on a Nash deflection that Mason stopped. However, the puck was never covered. Just as St. Louis tucked in a backhand, the whistle blew. Replays showed that St. Pierre wasn’t in the right position and couldn’t have seen it. A big break for the Flyers.
About the only penalty I agreed with was Hagelin’s third of the day. He hooked down Scott Hartnell preventing a goal. It was a smart penalty that allowed Lundqvist and the Rangers to make it four for four. Not long after, Moore victimized Gill for the Rangers’ third goal. Unable to retrieve a pass in his skates from partner Braydon Coburn, he lost the puck to Moore, who cut in and beat Mason for an unassisted tally at 16:20.
Up by three, things seemed under control. A dominant shift from the Derick Brassard, Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello unit led directly to a point blank opportunity for Stralman. After he was denied by Mason, Stralman was shoved into the Flyer netminder by his own defenseman. Instead, he was sent to the box for goalie interference. Another weak call. This time, the Flyers finally took advantage when a Lecavalier one-timer from the point deflected off a sliding Klein past Lundqvist. His first of the series came at 19:27 from former Islanders Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald.
Trailing by two despite not playing well, it gave the Flyers some life. The Rangers sat on the lead a little too much for my liking. They allowed the Flyers to enter the zone more and get some tough shots on Lundqvist, who came up big. Even Giroux was able to finally get a couple of chances.
There were a couple of good shifts that seemed to halt their momentum. St. Louis was brilliant throughout leading the Rangers with four shots including a couple of near misses. On a nice outlet from Stepan, he was stoned by Mason on a forehand deke. Stepan also had a nice solo effort getting a tough backhand on that Mason kicked out. In defeat, he made some key stops that kept it a two-goal deficit.
With over two minutes left, Berube pulled his goalie. The Rangers iced the puck a couple of times including one from McDonagh. Never a strong faceoff team, they saw the Flyers creep within one when a long Giroux shot snuck through traffic with 1:29 remaining. His first came from Kimmo Timonen and Wayne Simmonds.
But with the crowd urging them on, the Rangers put the game out of reach. A gigantic defensive sequence from Girardi allowed them to breathe easy. He took a heavy hit from Hartnell and then made a soft clear off the boards. A smart read that allowed the puck not to go for icing. A streaking Moore outraced Timonen and then fed the trailer Boyle for the exclamation point.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Dan Girardi, NYR (assist, 4 hits, +1 in 30 shifts-25:59-best defenseman in series)
2nd Star-Dominic Moore, NYR (goal-2nd of series, assist, 2 takeaways, 6 for 7 on draws, +1 in 12:36-one of Slat’s best signings)
1st Star-Martin St. Louis, NYR (assist, 4 SOG, +1 in 20:01-No.26 dominated in 26 big shifts)