VOORHEES, N.J. -- One focus for the Philadelphia Flyers heading into Game 5 of their Eastern Conference First Round series Sunday against the New York Rangers is getting off to a better start than they have in the previous three games.
The Flyers have been outscored 6-4 in the first period of the first four games and have allowed the first goal in three in a row. The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2 with Game 5 at Madison Square Garden (noon ET; NBC,RDS,TSN).
In Game 4 the score was tied 1-1 after one period but the Flyers were outshot 16-6. Were it not for outstanding play by goalie Steve Mason the Flyers easily could have been behind.
Flyers coach Craig Berube said improvements start with better play in the neutral zone, a place he believed the Flyers were outplayed in the first period.
"Neutral zone is the big thing for me, always is," he said. "You've got to make sure you've got coverage in the neutral zone. They're very good at transition. They've got fast forwards that take off. We've got to be above them. We've got to be above the outlets and cover them. There were too many times our first forechecker got way too deep and they had full control. They make one pass and they beat three guys and our [defensemen] are on their heels. That's how you get stretched out. You've got to be smart and you've got to be in better position without the puck."
Though the Flyers have made a habit of coming back from deficits and adversity all season, it's not a route they can take if they want to reach their goal of winning the Stanley Cup.
"It's not the ideal situation," forward Wayne Simmonds said. "Ideally you'd like to play with the lead. It's a best-of-3 series now. We have to be smart and make sure we're coming out strong."
The belief among some players is they came out a little too strong in Games 3 and 4 at Wells Fargo Center.
"We just need to be smarter," captain Claude Giroux said. "Be less pumped up at the start of the game when we do plays that we shouldn't. ... At home when the fans are going it's hard not to be too excited. They give us a little boost. Think we need to keep our composure and just play the game."
Getting away from home could be a cure for that.
"I'm hoping that they're under control and playing smart," Berube said. "That's the key, especially going on the road. We have to play a smart first period with and without the puck. We've got to have the energy and we have to skate and work, but it's got to be smart. Can't be just running around. Take the hits when they're there, be in position, play smart, and be good with the puck."