The fear of a slow start by the Philadelphia Flyers came to fruition Saturday night, as the Bullies ran straight into the New York Rangers buzz saw. The hottest team in the league early on in the season, the Rangers had already won three games in the regular season before the Flyers played one, and it showed.
The full-speed Rangers immediately jumped on the Flyers when Nikolai Zherdev scored just minutes into the game, when a loose rebound found itself on the former Columbus Blue Jackets’ stick and past Biron.
Blair Betts, Fredrik Sjostrom and Michael Rozsival scored consecutive goals to give the Rangers the dominant 4-0 lead. The fourth goal by Rozsival was enough for coach John Stevens to pull Marty Biron, who made 10 saves on 14 shots.
The Flyers defense, particularly Lasse Kukkonen, looked slow and out of sorts. Unable to get any offensive pressure, the Rangers’ speed caught the Flyers off guard.
The second period started a bit more in the Flyers’ favor. On the penalty kill, only 3:13 into the period, Flyers’ forward Scott Hartnell whip shot a Glen Metropolit face off win past Stephen Valiquette, to get the Flyers on the board and cut the Rangers lead to 4-1. The goal seem to wake the Flyers up, as they began to fight harder for pucks and get their game legs under them for the first time all game.
Despite the lopsided score, certain Flyers’ players have looked good. Danny Briere has been strong and aggressive with the puck, Joffrey Lupul seems on his game. Ossi Vaananen has been a pleasant surprise and Luca Sbisa, although being a minus-2, has played a solid game.
However, the Flyers would not roll over.
Down 4-1, the Briere, Gagne, Richards line would cash in early in the third. Gagne buried an open net shot that was set up by a strong play from Briere. It was Gagne’s first goal since January 26th, 2008. The goal gave the Flyers hope, down only 4-2.
Owning the pressure in the third, the Flyers tacked on another one, when Briere crossed the blueline and dished the puck to the far side. Richards, racing to that far side intecepted the puck with a deflection that beat Valiquette, to put the Flyers behind by only one, 4-3.
The Richards – Gagne – Briere line continued to pounce, out hustling the Rangers, but could not solve Valiquette, who seemed to make saves with a prayer and a post. The Flyers’ late effort would not be enough, as the Rangers would hold on the win 4-3.