Hockey games often can be decided by motivation — along with superb goaltending, plus an extra goal or two over the foe.
If any team invading The Garden had motivation on its mind, it was the Flyers who have been more erratic than the Jersey Transit in a record-breaking blizzard.
As a result, a Philadelphia team that was thoroughly dominant a few weeks ago came to Manhattan mulling over a question — is this Flyers team capable of reaching the post-season or was the recent win in Brooklyn just an aberration?
The motivating factor for Flyers coach Dave Hakstol involves convincing his skaters that they’ve got the goods to be a contender, and what better proof than to beat a superior sextet like the Rangers.
The fact that his goaltender Steve Mason, made like a combination Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price and Georges Vezina all rolled up into one, helps explain Philly’s unlikely 2-0 win.
“My guys competed real hard,” asserted Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault, “and they came ready to play. We had a lot of opportunities.”
True enough, but Henrik Lundqvist offered a more precise point: “We didn’t get it done on the special teams.”
After all, this was a game that — on paper and on ice — the Rangers figured to win; except they failed to consult Mister Mason, who accepted his team’s pair of goals and slammed the door on the Blueshirts.
OVERVIEW: Games immediately before the All-Star Break drive coaches nuts. As John Tortorella opined Tuesday night in Brooklyn, players’ minds seem to wander before taking a few relaxing days off. But this much is certain; break or no break, the Blueshirts motivation and effort were high-quality; but so was the Flyers goaltending and, in the end, that erased all other obstacles.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- STRONG START, NO RESULTS: The Rangers dominated the first period. Hurling 16 shots at Mason should have produced at least one red light, but the Flyers netminder would have none of it.
- BAD BOUNCES, PETULANT POSTS: The Blueshirts’ pucks had poor vision. At times when a goal seemed sure, the rubber hit the post; and the post didn’t cooperate by directing the puck into the twine.
- POWER PLAY: Going oh-for-three against the 21st-ranked penalty kill in the league didn’t cut the mustard.
- FAILED KILL ON THE PK: Skating a man short, the Rangers could not contain the ever-dangerous Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers ace tallied at 6:09 of the third period, giving the visitors all they needed to win.
- MARVELOUS MASON: A hot and cold goalie ever since his rookie year, Mason hit the puck-stopping heights at The Garden and that was all there was to it.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- COMPLETE GAME: Ryan McDonagh sums it up thusly: “We did a lot of good things five-on-five and looked fast out there. We didn’t give them too many looks.”
- GOALS AGAINST: After relinquishing seven goals to Dallas, the Rangers have allowed two goals or less in their last four games.
- SHOTS FOR: New York fired 34 shots on goal with 15-of-18 skaters recording at least one shot on goal in the game. The club has registered at least 30 shots on goal in six of the last eight games, and in nine of the last 14 games.
- NIFTY NASH: This was his best game since returning from his injury. Rick’s hit on Claude Giroux was memorable — mostly by the Flyers captain.
TURNING POINT: Matt Puempel‘s third-period penalty led to the Philly power play. Jakub Voracek’s shot produced a rebound that was converted by Simmonds.
WHAT THEY SAID:
- DEREK STEPAN: “We either hit a post or Mason made a save; that was the outcome of the game.”
- J.T. MILLER: “We played a great 60-minute game, but their goalie made some great saves.”
- MAVEN REPORTER MATTHEW BLITTNER: “On a night when the opposing goalie is as good as yours, you have to find a way to score that ‘dirty’ goal. The Flyers did.”
- MAVEN REPORTER SAM STERN: “Despite the loss, Henrik Lundqvist has re-found his game.”
- HENRIK LUNDQVIST: “They kill our power play and then get one big opportunity on their power play. For some reason, we didn’t get a player there and they cashed in.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Following the All-Star Break, the Rangers resume play, hosting John Tortorella’s Columbus Blue Jackets next Tuesday, January 31. TV: MSG 2.
BOTTOM LINE: The Rangers were motivated, all right; and so were the Flyers. But Philly had that extra added factor that can beat motivation; a goalie who would not let the other team score!