Some slick passing helped the surging Philadelphia Flyers take control of their game Saturday afternoon against the rival New York Rangers.
Nikolay Zherdev and Andreas Nodl scored goals off brilliant feeds by Mike Richards and Claude Giroux on the first two goals by the Flyers in a 4-1 victory before 19,898 at the Wells Fargo Center, the fourth-largest regular-season crowd in franchise history.
Philadelphia, which leads the NHL with 49 points, opened up a five-point lead in the Atlantic Division over the League's second-best team, Pittsburgh, which was off Saturday.
Zherdev scored twice against his former team, Ville Leino also tallied and Brian Boucher finished with 24 saves for the Flyers, 7-0-1 in their last eight games.
"I think we are able to now stay on top," Leino said. "We've got to keep working everyday because everybody wants to win. We're the team at the top and we have been doing a good job and working hard every night. That's the thing, we've got to keep doing it."
Derek Stepan had the lone goal for the Rangers, who could have closed to within four points of the Flyers with a victory. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 35 shots as New York's three-game winning streak came to an end.
"We made a few mistakes and they took advantage of it," Lundqvist said. "They're a good team. If you give them too much, they will hurt you. I think we played a pretty good game, just had stretches where we made a few mistakes."
The Flyers outshot the Rangers 26-19 over the first two periods but Zherdev was the only shooter to break through when he scored on a breakaway 9:06 into the second. Zherdev had just finished serving a cross-checking penalty when he came out of the box, took a long lead pass from Mike Richards and backhanded the puck past Lundqvist.
"I came out of the penalty box and saw the pass coming to me and just took off," Zherdev said. "It was a great pass and [I] just went for it."
It was the 12th goal of the season for Zherdev, who played in Russia last season after scoring 23 goals for New York during the 2008-09 season, and a critical one as far as Rangers coach John Tortorella was concerned.
"They get fortunate on their first goal, which I thought was the most important goal of the game … where we have control on the power play, it ends, we whiff on a pass and Richards makes a hell of a play," Tortorella said.
Nodl scored what turned out to be the game-winner 3:19 into the second off a no-look feed from Claude Giroux. He found Nodl for a shot into a wide-open left side of the net.
The Rangers thought they had cut the lead in half moments later on what would have been Dale Weise's first goal. But it was immediately disallowed, as the officials ruled Weise, who was making his NHL debut, turned his skate in order to redirect a Sean Avery shot past Boucher. A video review in Toronto confirmed the call.
Stepan then got one that counted, making it 2-1 at 8:23 as he converted an Alexander Frolov feed. It was his ninth of the season and second in as many games.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette used his timeout at this point and it served to help his team get the momentum back.
Leino deflected in a Kimmo Timonen shot at 9:57 and after a slashing call on Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, Zherdev scored his second of the game and 13th of the season on the ensuing power play with 4:54 remaining. The rebound of an Andrej Meszaros shot came to Zherdev and he banked the puck in off Lundqvist's blocker.
"We tried to do the same things that got us back into games earlier. I just think we didn't do enough, didn't put enough pucks on net," Rangers forward Erik Christensen said. "And we get an unfortunate break that Weise's goal is disallowed and they capitalize on their power play."
It was the Flyers' first game playing without defenseman Chris Pronger, out 4-6 weeks with a broken foot suffered Wednesday against the Canadiens.
"They did a good job, our defense all year has been strong," said Boucher, who has won six of his last seven starts. "Obviously it helps to have Prongs, we're not going to kid ourselves. Altogether our defense has been really good, and our forwards help out too, they do a good job and they help out.
"Bart [Oskars Bartulis] did a nice job stepping in today, and the other guys, guys like Meszaros and [Sean] O'Donnell that are up in the League lead in plus/minus, obviously they are doing their job this year. Altogether everyone has been good all year, it's good to see guys do it without the big guy today."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report