How to sum up the Rangers’ effort tonight? It was pathetic. With a chance to wrap up the first round series, they embarrassed themselves. This was unacceptable. Full credit to the Flyers who scored the first four on Henrik Lundqvist en route to a 5-2 Game 6 laugher- forcing a deciding seventh game tomorrow at MSG.
Simply put, the Rangers failed miserably extending the loathsome NHL record losing streak to 12 when leading a series. It’s absolutely mystifying. They started out well enough carrying the play until the latest undisciplined Benoit Pouliot offensive zone penalty. But for all the zone time they had after careless Flyer turnovers, not once did a Ranger get one past Steve Mason. Instead, they turned him into Bernie Parent. Since taking over for Ray Emery, Mason has outplayed Lundqvist twice. He finished with 34 saves blanking them until Carl Hagelin broke the shutout with 6:34 left. Mats Zuccarello added another in garbage time.
If Mason was the hero in net, Wayne Simmonds was the offensive star recording a hat trick. The pesky Flyers’ power forward did it all. He tallied twice on the power play and also notched one five on five while also getting into it with Zuccarello following his goal in the final minute. Simmonds was everywhere. Flyer coach Craig Berube made a great adjustment sticking Brayden Schenn between Simmonds and Scott Hartnell. That move along with inserting defenseman Erik Gustafsson for Hal Gill looked like genius. Gustafsson beat Lundqvist on a breakaway after coming out of the penalty box.
It was that kind of night for the Blueshirts. They were terrible. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi stunk. For a sixth consecutive game, McDonagh failed to register a point and was on with Girardi for Simmonds’ first two goals. That included a back breaking Simmonds tally that increased the Flyers’ lead to 2-0 at 1:32 of the second. A terrible misplay that allowed Schenn to come in on Lundqvist and fan on a shot that went directly to Simmonds for an easy finish while McDonagh watched.
After wasting a good first despite the shots being even (13-13), the Rangers mailed in the second. They didn’t have strong support and were taken off their game. To be honest, I said if they allowed the Flyers to escape the first up, it would give them a big psychological lift. That’s exactly how it played out. Despite the usual march to the penalty box, the Rangers again couldn’t take advantage failing in five chances. That makes them 0 for the last four games. Meanwhile, Philadelphia again won the special teams battle going 2 for 3 on the power play. In their three wins, they’ve scored five PPG’s.
The game for all intensive purposes ended when the Rangers failed miserably on their third power play. Trailing by two, they couldn’t get anything accomplished. Again, the Flyers aggressive penalty kill kept them bottled up. There are just way too many mistakes. The Flyers have continued to take away the blue line. Like a broken record, there have been zero adjustments. This despite the improvement under assistant Scott Arniel. They scored three PPG’s in the first two games but nothing since. That falls on the coaching staff which includes Alain Vigneault. Speaking of having miserable nights, he picked an inopportune time getting outcoached by Berube.
Following a Ranger folly, Braydon Coburn sent Gustafsson on a break which Lundqvist bungled. First, he challenged and then went back in his net making it an easy one for the Flyers’ eighth defenseman. He needed to make the save there. Instead, he retreated and got burned. As soon as Gustafsson made it 3-0, Vigneault should’ve used his timeout. With Wells Fargo Center going crazy, he didn’t. He never does. That might work in the regular season. But in a playoff series you’re trying to close, he needed to half the Flyer momentum. He also left Lundqvist in to give up Simmonds’ hat trick 62 seconds later. Another fiasco. Vigneault finally took him out after the second. Cam Talbot came on in relief and stopped five shots.
Here’s an ugly stat for Lundqvist. In the last 12 games when his team has lead a playoff series, he’s now 0-12. Entering, the last 11 losses included a 3.32 GAA and .877 save percentage. Sure to go up following permitting four goals on 23 shots before being lifted. Only one goal was his fault. Aside from that, he was left out to dry. It’s hard to pin it all on him. Not when so many teammates were subpar. Especially the top pair of McDonagh and birthday boy Girardi, who had their worst performance. There was the ghost of Rick Nash again failing to bury a point blank opportunity past Mason. The Nash storyline has gotten old. He’s now 0 for 6 in the series and has just 1 goal in his first 18 postseason games as a Blueshirt.
Brad Richards was probably their best offensive player. He’s been firing shots from everywhere and creating chances. With an assist tonight, his six points are tied for first with Martin St. Louis (2-4-6). Speaking of the top line, they haven’t scored a goal since the 4-1 win in Game 3. St. Louis and Stepan were good in Game 5 setting up Marc Staal. Either they have to step up with Nash or the Zuccarello unit with Pouliot and Derick Brassard (1 assist) need to have more of an impact. At the very least, Zuccarello got his first since Game 1. Hagelin notched his second on a great effort to finally solve Mason. Anton Stralman picked up his first point.
Mason made every clutch stop. Especially with a lightning like right catching glove. The rebounds were there to be had but no Ranger got to them. That’s an area they must improve upon if they want to advance. Somewhere between Pouliot’s minor and the second, they lost momentum. The Flyers put together a couple of good shifts at the end of the first and carried it through. They held up their end.
The end of the game wasn’t without a fight. Brian Boyle mixed it up with Adam Hall. It came with less than two minutes left. Hardly a scrapper, at least he showed frustration. Boyle also had a goal waved off when he directed a loose puck in with his glove. The fourth line was the most consistent. That can’t happen tomorrow. The last three series the Rangers have won, they’ve taken Game 7. The pressure is squarely on them to deliver at The Garden. The puck drops after 7 EST.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Claude Giroux, Phi (1-2-3 incl. empty netter in 16:19)
2nd Star-Steve Mason, Phi (34 saves incl. 13 big ones in 1st)
1st Star-Wayne Simmonds, PHI (hat trick-2nd, 3rd, 4th incl. 2 PPG’s, 12 PIM in 12:50)