If ever a comeback victory was in order for the Rangers, it was delivered on Friday afternoon in Philadelphia. However, it comes under the heading of “Too Close For Comfort.”
Stung to the core by the Thanksgiving Eve spanking applied by the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins, coach Alain Vigneault‘s stickhandlers responded at Wells Fargo Center by grounding the Flyers, 3-2, despite a late, scary Philly surge.
Henrik Lundqvist, who had gotten the Vigneault hook on Wednesday night, erased that nightmare with a 40 save effort — with more than a little help from his friends.
More importantly, the victory sets the stage for a more optimistic view of the next home game on Sunday when the surprisingly competitive Ottawa Senators come to The Garden.
OVERVIEW: Unlike the loss to Pittsburgh at The Garden when the Blueshirts tallied the first goal — and no more — the New Yorkers this time scored early and often, building a (the dreaded) three-goal lead.
Naturally, there was an expected Flyers third period press which produced an early goal, reducing the Rangers lead to a pair. From that point on, it was a matter of hermetically sealing their cage from further penetration.
And while the Blueshirts did batten down the hatches, one more puck squeezed through King Henrik’s wall. From there, Henny and his Subjects did what was necessary to stem the tide.
By so doing, the Rangers made good on coach Alain Vigneault’s promise uttered before the game that his skaters would rebound from the Thanksgiving Eve debacle on Seventh Avenue.
But stopping the surging Broad Streeters from their late empty-net rally was a study in heartthrob, every which way. That the visitors held fast when it counted is helping to define the team’s many assets that include durability and survive-ability.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- EXPECTED AND UNEXPECTED PRODUCTION: The dependable forwards, Derek Stepan and Kevin Hayes, came through with goals — Hayes’ was the winner — while newly-acquired Matt Puempel delivered his first for New York and finished with a plus-one rating.
- LUNDQVIST’S REBOUND-ABILITY: Over the years, His Majesty invariably follows a clunker with a masterful performance. He thwarted a season-high 40 shots, allowing just a pair while producing several highlight saves. On a Claude Giroux attempt, Henrik used his head to make a lunging stop.
- TIGHTENING UP AT THE RIGHT TIME: They haven’t labeled the three-goal lead “dreaded” for nothing. When the Flyers went from down by three to down by one late in the third period, the DE-FENCE pulled the noose tight on the home club sending the visitors into their clubhouse with a smile.
- THE GENIUS GENERAL MANAGER: So far Jeff Gorton continues to have a magic touch when it comes to acquisitions. Michael Grabner is Exhibit A and it goes from there. The other day Gorton added Matt Puempel and in his Rangers debut the native of Essex, Ontario scored the second goal with assists from Jimmy Vesey — another good Gorton get — and Josh Jooris.
- NO HOLDENS-BARRED: With quiet confidence defenseman Nick Holden is fast becoming yet another majestic acquisition. He assisted on Hayes’ winning goal and now boasts one of the best plus-minus marks in the league.
- DISCIPLINE: Playing the second-ranked PP in the league, the Blueshirts displayed first class discipline. One penalty that did not result in a PP opportunity for the Flyers thanks to rookie Travis Konecny who dropped gloves with Brandon Pirri after Pirri boarded Brandon Manning in the first. Konecny took Pirri to the ground but cost his second-ranked unit a chance to get on the board early.
- EXPLAINING SUCCESS WITHOUT ANALYTICS: The Rangers have posted a 15-6-1 record through the first 22 games this season and have won 14 of their last 20 games (14-5-1). ‘Nuff said.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT:
- THE POWER PLAY: For the second straight game the Rangers failed to execute on four consecutive power play minutes. While they continue to score big, the PP remains a work in progress.
- OUTPLAYED: The Flyers owned the puck much of the night, outshooting New York, 42-23. Had it not been for Lundqvist’s clutch goaltending, the W would have gone to Philly.
STILL LEARNING ABOUT THE RANGERS:
- BENDING BUT NOT BREAKING: Philadelphia had the better of the play and the Rangers defense bent but did not break.
- SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY WITH SPEED: Despite the Flyers overwhelming opportunities, Lundqvist stopped them but, more important, Rangers speed created the few necessary quality chances and they put them away. It was the difference-maker on this night.
- ABLE TO HANDLE BULLIES WITHOUT TANNER GLASS: Whether the Rangers could survive without their former ice cop, Tanner Glass, has been a debatable point. The answer was affirmative in the first period which involved Brandon Pirri and Chris Kreider in bouts. Kreider, especially, won on points.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING:
- “The Rangers discipline was evident and that prevented the Flyers from getting a power play.” – Dylan Turner, Manhattan
- “Make no mistake, the Rangers can be mean. The Flyers played tough but the Blueshirts never backed down.” – Sam Stern, Rockland County
- “A bit sluggish at the start, the Blueshirts found their speed when they most needed it and that helped build the early lead.” – Matthew Blittner, Brooklyn
NEXT GAME: Sunday vs. Ottawa (6:30 PM, MSG)