|Backup goaltender Steve Valiquette stepped in for the struggling Henrik Lundqvist after the first period, and cooled off the Flyer's attack as the red-hot New York Rangers went on to defeat Philadelphia 5-4 in a shootout.
Watch Valiquette deny the Flyer's Daniel Briere
Just put him in net against the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s like wielding kryptonite against Superman.
Valiquette didn’t even start Sunday’s game at Madison Square Garden, but he was ready for the call after Henrik Lundqvist was shelled for three goals on eight shots in a wild first period. Valiquette restored order by making 17 saves during the next two periods and overtime, then stopped a pair of Flyers in the shootout as the Rangers extended their surge to 7-0-2 with a 5-4 victory.
The Flyers were also forced to pull their goaltender early, replacing Antero Niittymaki with Martin Biron less than two minutes into the second. Biron stopped all 21 shots he faced through overtime, but Brendan Shanahan ( 700K ) and Nigel Dawes beat him in the first two rounds of the shootout. Valiquette made saves on Kimmo Timonen and Jeff Carter, with Carter’s shot deflecting off the post.
“I was just focusing on staying square and taking away shooting options,” said Valiquette, who has earned three of his nine career NHL wins against the Flyers. “I didn’t think (Carter’s shot) went in. I thought it was going wide. Then I heard it hit the post and I had to make sure I didn't kick it in.”
Valiquette blanked the Flyers twice in Philadelphia during a 10-day span earlier this year. He made 20 saves on Jan. 31, earning his first NHL shutout in a 4-0 win, then topped that by stopping 31 shots during a 2-0 victory on Feb. 9. This was his first home win of the season.
“I went through (a shootout) last year, when I beat St. Louis, and I was really happy because it was in MSG,” Valiquette said. “It’s always nice to be a hockey player and have an MSG moment.”
Newcomers Fredrik Sjostrom and Christian Backman got to experience similar moments as both scored their first goal for the Rangers after coming over at the trade deadline. Martin Straka and Ryan Callahan also tallied as New York pulled back into a tie with Boston for sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Carter netted a pair for the Flyers. Vaclav Prospal and Braydon Coburn had their other goals, but Philadelphia’s three-game win streak came to an end.
“It’s a good thing we got three points out of four this weekend,” Niittymaki said.
Carter made sure they earned Sunday’s point, forcing overtime when he beat Valiquette with his 23rd of the season at 11:49 of the third ( 700K ). That ended Valiquette’s shutout streak against the Flyers at 157 minutes, 45 seconds.
Backman had put the Rangers ahead 4-3 only 1:51 into the second ( 700K ) when he chased Niittymaki with the 20th goal of his career and his first since being acquired Tuesday from St. Louis.
"It was kind of funny to see both starting goaltenders pulled relatively early," Shanahan said.
"Henrik and I had a little chuckle on the bench when they pulled their guy. Just one of those nights."
The first period was definitely not one that will be featured in any goaltending how-to videos in the future. The two teams combined to take 21 shots, and six of those found their way into the net.
Prospal put the first marker up on the scoreboard just 1:08 after the opening faceoff when he netted his 30th of the season ( 700K ) and first since coming back to the Flyers in a deal with Tampa Bay.
“It's a great relief,” Prospal said. “I hope I’m not done (scoring), but it’s a very big number in the NHL.”
Straka tied the game with a power-play goal at 4:20 ( 700K ), but Coburn scored with the man advantage ( 700K ) for the second time in as many days to put the Flyers back in front at the 8:14 mark.
The Rangers responded by taking their first lead as Sjostrom ( 700K ) and Callahan ( 700K ) scored 2:22 apart later in the first. Sjostrom had scored his first 10 goals this season as a member of the Coyotes, while Callahan picked up his sixth and fourth in seven games.
Carter made it 3-3 when he beat Lundqvist with 4:13 left in the first ( 700K ).
“The first period was pretty wild,” said Niittymaki, who stopped 10 of 14 shots before being lifted. “Sometimes when it is that way you have to make a couple of big saves. I didn’t do it and Lundqvist didn’t do it. It kind of settled down after both teams pulled their goalies, but there were still scoring chances.”
Material from wire services was used in this report.