Rangers clinch East's No. 1 seed with win over Flyers
Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 9:48 PM
Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing EditorPHILADELPHIA --
The New York Rangers
can cross another item off their to-do list.
Five different players scored goals as the New York Rangers
defeated the Philadelphia Flyers
5-3 on Tuesday to clinch the Atlantic Division title and the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
and Ryan McDonagh
each had a goal and an assist, and goalie Henrik Lundqvist
made 37 saves as the Rangers completed a sweep of the season series with their Atlantic Division rival and extended their win streak against the Flyers to eight.
Lundqvist made a number of those saves with a right arm he injured in the final seconds of the second period when he landed awkwardly lunging to stop a Claude Giroux
shot from the left side, the rebound of which became the Flyers' second goal. After the game, Lundqvist said he suffered a "stinger" and had trouble gripping his stick in the third period. He had an ice bag taped to his right forearm.
"I was struggling all third period," said Lundqvist. "I told Martin (Biron) to be ready just in case I couldn't go. A couple of times I was like, 'I'm out of here. I can't really hold a stick.' It was tough in the third."
However, he persevered and completed the game to earn his career-best 39th victory.
"He was unbelievable," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of Lundqvist. "I'm glad Hank got a bunch of work. I think that's something we want Hank to have. That's the best I've seen him play in a few weeks here. … It was a good game for him. He just looked confident and it's the most confident I've seen him in a few weeks."
had a pair of assists and the Rangers dominated in special-teams play. New York killed seven of eight Flyers power plays and went 3-for-6 with the man-advantage. The Rangers, who entered the game 27th in the League on the power play at 15.1 percent, went 8-for-25 (32.0 percent) in six games against Philadelphia.
Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
, in his first game back after missing three with a chip fracture in his right foot, allowed five goals on 19 shots. Wayne Simmonds
, Jakub Voracek
and Scott Hartnell
had goals for the Flyers.
Giroux assisted on all three and raised his season total to 92 points; he's the first Flyer to score at least 90 points since Mark Recchi in 1999-2000, and it's the most by any Philadelphia player since Eric Lindros had 93 points in the 1998-99 season.
The Rangers jumped to a 4-0 first-period lead and never looked back as they cruised to the team's first conference title since their Stanley Cup-winning season in 1993-94.
While it was a positive mood in the Rangers' locker room after the game, the players know there's still a lot more hard work to come in order to reach their ultimate goal.
"I don't think it's going to mean a lot going into the playoffs," Lundqvist said of the conference crown. "Right now it feels great. I'm really proud of what we've accomplished. Just a great sign of how many great things we've been doing all year and how consistent we've been. After Saturday, it's going to be a great feeling knowing we finished first. But when we play the next game it doesn't mean anything. Yeah, we have home-ice advantage, that's a big thing, but after that it doesn't really get us anything."
Added Richards: "I think tonight it's big, it’s a great accomplishment … but it's nothing starting next week. It's a great building block for this organization to know that we can compete over 82 games with anybody. We're going to go into the playoffs with a good realization that we can beat anybody.
"We're confident and we want to do as much damage as we can."
They started doing damage early, taking the lead when McDonagh pinched down to score 6:25 into the game. Brian Boyle
made it 2-0 at 11:30 when he one-timed the rebound of a McDonagh shot past Bryzgalov.
It marked the seventh time in the last 10 games the Flyers had trailed a game 2-0.
"The first couple shifts I thought were good, after that I thought we got loose in our end," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. "They capitalized, we didn't. Then they drew the penalties at the end, got on the power play and scored again."
The Rangers took control of the game with a pair of power-play goals 36 seconds apart late in the period. With Jaromir Jagr
off for hooking, Artem Anisimov
took a stretch pass from Dan Girardi
, split a pair of Flyers and scored on Bryzgalov at 18:02. Compounding matters for the Flyers was Marc-Andre Bourdon being called for hooking and Pavel Kubina
being assessed a double minor for high sticking Anisimov in the mouth, giving the Rangers a two-man advantage starting on the next faceoff.
New York needed less than a minute to take advantage, as Ryan Callahan
banged in the rebound of a Richards shot at 18:38 to make it 4-0.
Richards was at a loss to explain the team's power-play success against the Flyers, saying, "I have no idea," why it was so successful against one team.
"They're very aggressive killing penalties," Tortorella said of the Flyers. "The improvement we've made our on our power play is the puck movement. We've had better puck movement. … Puck movement is very important, that's what we tried to stress, because they're so aggressive."
Voracek got the Flyers on the board in the second period when he scored off the rebound of his own shot. Lundqvist stopped both chances, but the second one bounced off the skate of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal
and past Lundqvist at 12:55.
Gaborik extended the lead to 5-1 when he ripped a shot over Bryzgalov's glove with 50.4 seconds left for his 41st of the season. He's one shy of matching his career-best of 42, which he's done twice.
Simmonds closed the second with his 28th of the season and sixth in five games. The reigning NHL First Star of the Week was below the goal line when he reached back to tuck the rebound of a Giroux's shot just inside the right post with 7.0 seconds left.
Lundqvist was injured on that play, but he was able to shut things down in the third, stopping 13 of 14 shots and helping the Rangers kill off three power plays. The only puck to get past him came when Hartnell re-directed an Andreas Lilja
shot over his glove at 10:46 for his 37th of the season.
In winning all six games against Philadelphia this season, Lundqvist allowed just 11 goals on 191 shots (.941 save percentage).
It's just the second time the Rangers have swept the Flyers in a season series, with the previous instance coming in the 1971-72 season, when the Rangers won all six games.
"It feels good," Gaborik said. "It was that kind of vibe about this matchup this year, the Winter Classic and all that. Feels good to win six."
However, the Flyers weren't all that upset.
"If you're going to play them in the playoffs they have to beat us 10 times this year," Voracek said. "It's a lot of games. I don't think it's going to happen. We're going to do everything forward so it won't happen."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK