NEW YORK -- The Rangers' dominance against the Philadelphia Flyers, one of the top teams in the NHL since the puck was dropped on the season in October, is difficult to explain.
It's not that the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers don't have the ability to handle any opponent on a given night, but to run off four straight wins against the Flyers this season and six in a row overall is quite the staggering feat.
Following the Rangers' latest victory against the Flyers -- a 5-2 drubbing at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon -- Brandon Dubinsky tried to find the connection between all four victories.
"Mental edge? I'm not sure," said Dubinsky, whose third-period goal was the proverbial nail in the coffin of the Flyers. "I know that both teams come ready to play. We found a way to be better than them in the four times we played them this year. We're focused, we're ready. We're up to the challenge. We hit right back, we fight right back. We find ways to win games. Everybody contributes."
Matching the physical nature of the Flyers and receiving contributions up and down the lineup was certainly the key Sunday.
Rangers defenseman Stu Bickel fought twice, Dubinsky once and Brandon Prust dropped the gloves. Philadelphia's Tom Sestito received the rare game misconduct for receiving three fighting majors while teammate Wayne Simmonds fought in the first period.
Bickel, the rookie whose lineup spot could be in jeopardy with Steve Eminger ready to return as soon as Tuesday, received high marks from Rangers coach John Tortorella, who believes the physical nature of these games with the Flyers brings out the best in his team.
"That's a big part of our game," Tortorella said. "That’s the way we have to play. When another team joins in, it mounts. Everybody gets involved. We're the sum of our parts. That's how we play. That's the only way we can play. Everyone needs to join in in all areas like that."
The team concept applied to the Rangers' offense, too.
Artem Anisimov started the scoring just 1:04 into the contest, deflecting a blast from the blue line by defenseman Dan Girardi to make it 1-0. It appeared to many that the goal would be credited to Girardi -- and that includes Anisimov himself.
"I didn't know," he said of his goal that was his first point in 17 games. "I go on the bench and I go, 'Whoa. I score?' Nice."
Anisimov added two assists while reunited with Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik, a combination that had success earlier this season. The unit was the ringleader of the Rangers' first game since Dec. 30 in which they cracked the three-goal barrier.
"It's a line that did a lot of good things for us earlier in the year," Tortorella said. "I'm still trying to figure out how it all breaks with our lines. It's something that I've been thinking about for a long time. I juggle that with the play of (Carl Hagelin), but we're still not scoring. So where it all goes, I don't know. But that line will probably stay together."
With the Flyers coming off a rocky performance Saturday in which they fell behind the Devils 6-0 before losing 6-4, Anisimov's quick goal was about as far from the start coach Peter Laviolette wanted.
"It's just frustrating," Laviolette said. "We were in a position to win a hockey game and we don't. We walk away. We're trying to chase down first in the division, first in the conference, and we're on the short end."
"I think generally speaking (Bryzgalov), and we, and our team could play better than we did," Laviolette said. "We had an opportunity to win a game and we didn't."
The victory moved the Rangers five points ahead of the Flyers in the Atlantic Division and three ahead of the Bruins in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers trail the Red Wings by one point in the overall standings, but have played three fewer games.
The Flyers struck for the tying goal, when Brayden Schenn escaped from the penalty box for a breakaway. He deked Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to the ice and lifted a backhand over him to make it 1-1 at 12:02 of the second period.
The goal ended Lundqvist's shutout streak at 182:37.
It appeared as though the game would be tied entering the third period, but an inspiring effort from Gaborik put the Rangers ahead.
After having a shot from the right wing stopped, Gaborik was mashed behind the net by Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros. Gaborik was down on his knees for several seconds, clearly in pain from the crushing hit in the period's waning seconds.
But the puck found Gaborik, who got to his skates, and with Meszaros draped on his back, beat Bryzgalov with a wraparound that made it 2-1 Rangers with 5.1 seconds left in the period with his 26th goal of the season.
"It's a (bad) goal," Tortorella said, speaking of how the backhander along the ice was very stoppable. "The thing I liked about it, he didn't give in. He got up. We were just looking at the tape. He asked for the puck again. He didn't stay down, and he gets rewarded. I thought he played really well."
The late goal didn't break the Flyers, as Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with a power-play goal just 53 seconds into the third period.
But as has been the case all season, the Rangers didn't wilt when the going got tough.
Gaborik led a 3-on-2 rush that ended with a drop pass to defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who whipped a shot that squeezed through Bryzgalov 36 seconds after Simmonds' goal.
Del Zotto admitted he wasn't aiming for that spot, but he wasn't going to complain about a game-winning goal.
"Guys are going to make plays, so it's just a matter of finding the right opening and the right timing," Del Zotto said of joining the rush. "I happened to find one there and we got a goal out of it."
The Flyers had a chance to tie it when Brian Boyle was called for slashing at 9:25. The Flyers held the puck in the Rangers' zone for two straight minutes, but three blocks by Ryan Callahan, two saves by Lundqvist and a goal post prevented the Flyers from tying it.
Less than a minute later, Dubinsky made it 4-2 with his sixth of the season, and Ruslan Fedotenko iced it with an empty-net goal with 1:16 remaining.
"We have been neck and neck with those guys all year long," Dubinsky said. "Every game we've played against them has been physical, a playoff-type atmosphere and we knew it was going to be like that today. It's always a fun game against those guys."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
1 - 0 NYR
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NYR
2 - 2 Tie
Michael Del Zotto
3 - 2 NYR
4 - 2 NYR
5 - 2 NYR
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