NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers made a statement Wednesday night in what could be a preview of a first-round series in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
New York's tenacious fourth line led the Rangers to a 3-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in a playoff-like environment at Madison Square Garden.
The win moved the Rangers three points ahead of the Flyers for second place in the Metropolitan Division, though the Flyers have two games in hand. It was New York's eighth straight victory at the Garden against Philadelphia.
"Obviously, it's huge. They're a team we could match up against in the playoffs," said Rangers forward Derek Dorsett, who scored the game's first goal. "You want to set the tone for that. They're a team that comes hard and plays a physical game. I think we match up pretty well."
New York has won five straight and six of seven. The Rangers will visit the Calgary Flames on Friday to open a four-game road trip.
Jakub Voracek scored late in the third period to spoil Lundqvist's shutout bid. Steve Mason stopped 26 of 29 shots for the Flyers (38-27-7), who have lost two in a row following a five-game win streak.
New York led 1-0 despite being outshot 15-6 in the first. The Rangers turned the tide in the second, and they outshot the Flyers 23-16 during the final two periods.
Mason made one of his best stops of the game on Rick Nash early in the second period. Nash eluded both Flyers defensemen at the blue line before going to the forehand at 5:04. Mason stretched out his left pad to keep the score 1-0, but there was little the Philadelphia goaltender could do 30 seconds later on an impressive individual effort from McDonagh that put New York ahead 2-0.
Dangling in from the right point, the defenseman released a hard, rising shot that beat Mason just inside the right post for his 14th goal at 5:34. That goal was the high point of a commanding stretch for New York during which they held Philadelphia without a shot for more than eight minutes.
"It was a slow pass. I was able to jump it. We talked about how they play man-on-man. When you get a little separation, sometimes you might have more time than you think," McDonagh said. "I was able to calm the puck down and find a way to get a shot off."
McDonagh's 14 goals are the most by a Rangers defenseman since Brian Leetch scored 21 in 2000-01.
McDonagh's scoring touch, coupled with the work he and partner Dan Girardi did to shut down the Flyers' top forward line of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Voracek, earned raves from New York coach Alain Vigneault.
"He's got to be getting some consideration for the Norris [Trophy] the way he's playing offensively and defensively," Vigneault said. "He's playing against the top line, he's defending extremely well, and when he gets an opportunity to go on the offense like tonight, he does. He's been one of our best players this year."
The Flyers' attack was momentarily hampered by the loss of Kimmo Timonen, who took a Brian Boyle shot to the leg 3:24 into the second period and later went to the Philadelphia dressing room. The veteran defenseman returned just in time to see Lundqvist make one of the game's finest saves.
Lundqvist stopped Michael Raffl at the right post, but the rebound went straight to Adam Hall, who appeared to have an open net. The Rangers goaltender lunged across the crease to make the save and maintain New York's two-goal lead. The Flyers wouldn't see too many quality chances after that.
"I didn't think in the second period we were nearly intense enough or strong enough on the walls or did enough little things out there," Philadelphia coach Craig Berube said. "They checked well, they were on us, and we kind of just let it happen. Not enough fight tonight."
With the Rangers leading 2-0 after 40 minutes, the third period was short on quality chances as a series of big hits and blocked shots slowed the pace.
Moore managed to work through that gridlock to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead at 7:39. Raffl's failed clearing attempt went straight to New York defenseman Kevin Klein, whose point shot was tipped by Moore and skipped between Mason's legs before trickling across the goal line just beyond the reach of a diving Luke Schenn.
Moore's sixth goal was fitting in a game in which the Rangers' fourth line of Moore, Boyle and Dorsett plugged away at the Flyers' defense.
"That fourth line is a big, grinding line. When they find ways to contribute, like they have the past couple of games offensively, it makes our team that much better," Vigneault said. "They wear the other team's defensemen down. It's real good for us."
Moore's goal put the game out of reach for the Flyers. Voracek scored his 21st with 1:53 remaining and the teams playing 4-on-4.
Considering how rough the play was in the first period, it seemed appropriate that New York's grinding line opened the scoring. Boyle grabbed Mason's clearing attempt along the right wall and quickly fed Dorsett in front of the net. Finding positioning at the lip of the crease, Dorsett deposited a backhand for his fourth of the season, and first in 12 games, at 8:41.
"It's great to see him get rewarded there," Moore said. "A great play by Boyler to get the puck to the net right away and a good play by Dors to be on the doorstep."
Lundqvist helped the Rangers retain their 1-0 lead by making a succession of big saves after J.T. Miller was called for tripping with 2:24 remaining in the first. He made four stops on the ensuing power play, including two on Wayne Simmonds from in close.
"They got some chances on that power play at the end," Vigneault said. "Your goaltender has got to come up big, and Hank did tonight. When we had a couple of breakdowns, he was the difference."
The Flyers have not beaten the Rangers in New York since Feb. 20, 2011. The long losing streak is something they'll have on their minds if they face New York in the playoffs, but they haven't started thinking about a return trip just yet.
"I'm not thinking about that. I'm just thinking about the next game," Berube said. "We've got to fight to get in the playoffs. That's what we're thinking about now."
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