Philadelphia, PA – Jaromir Jagr scored a power play goal in overtime after the Rangers tied the game in the final minute of regulation to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center on Saturday evening, 4-3.
Jagr ripped a slap shot on a one-timer from the faceoff circle through the legs of Robert Esche at 1:24 as New York jumped ahead of Philadelphia for first place in the Atlantic Division. The Rangers have 72 points to the Flyers' 71, although Philadelphia has a game in hand.
"We played a heck of a hockey game. We deserved a much better fate," said Ken Hitchcock. "It was the best game we played in a month and we played our two best games against the Rangers. We won one in overtime and we lost one in overtime. It was disappointing at the end to play as well as we did and lose the way we did."
"The last two games we played (against the Rangers) were great hockey, and two of the best games of the year for both teams," said Turner Stevenson. "It's turning into a good rivalry, but it's also two teams battling for first, so we are disappointed for sure."
With the Flyers trailing 2-1 entering the third period, Jeff Carter tied the game early with a quick wrist shot from the top of the face off circle that trickled under the arm of Henrik Lundqvist just over the goal line seconds after a Flyers power play had expired.
Philadelphia took its first lead of the game at 11:08 on Mike Knuble's second goal of the game. Knuble skated past Jagr and tipped in a pass from Mike Richards as he charged towards the goal.
With Lundqvist pulled for an extra attacker, the Rangers got a favorable bounce when a slap shot deflected off of several bodies and eventually off of Petr Sykora with 42 seconds left in regulation.
"We're fighting through a lot of adversity, and our guys are digging in deep," said Hitchcock. "This was for first place, that's what is so disappointing."
"We played extremely hard," said Knuble. "It's a loss, but now they go past us into first place. This thing we're going through here, we need to take baby steps. This wasn't a baby step; it was a huge step tonight. We can all leave the rink proud and with our heads up. We beat New York last week, but I would say we played much better today."
Philadelphia came out of the gate strong with eight of the first nine shots, but were unable to score on a couple of early power plays as Lundqvist stopped blasts by Joni Pitkanen from the point and Carter from the face off circle.
It would be the Rangers striking first, when defenseman Chris Therien was caught out of position leading to a two-on-one rush. Jason Ward fed Marcel Hossa for a quick one-timer at 15:33.
The second period was an entertaining one, with a couple of goals, a couple of fights and plenty of hitting.
First, Michael Nylander made it a 2-0 Rangers lead on the power play when Jagr found him wide open in the faceoff circle with a cross-ice pass, and Nylander lifted it in at 7:18 over Esche.
The sellout crowd finally had something to cheer about midway through the period when Donald Brashear gave New York's Colton Orr a thorough beating, landing several left hands before Orr turtled along the boards. Brashear, however, picked up the extra minor for roughing on the play.
Later, Stevenson and New York's Jason Strudwick dropped the gloves. Earlier in the period, Stevenson sent Rangers rookie Petr Prucha to the locker room with a right knee injury after a hit along the boards.
The Flyers cut the lead to 2-1 with 4:38 left in the period. Richards, who was centering the line of Knuble and Simon Gagne, found Knuble in front of the net. Knuble spun around and beat Lundqvist for his 24th goal of the season.
Philadelphia suffered a couple of casualties in the game, when Therien and Petr Nedved left the game after the first period and did not return. Therien was listed with a head injury, while Nedved suffered a right groin strain. Alexandre Picard and Ben Eager were recalled from the Phantoms.
The Flyers, who now have four games left before the Olympic break, face the Montreal Canadiens at the Molson Centre on Sunday afternoon (3:00 p.m., CSN).
FLYERS NOTES This was the fourth of eight meetings between the Flyers and Rangers this season. Philadelphia won the previous two, both in overtime at Madison Square Garden, while New York defeated the Flyers on Opening Night at the Wachovia Center on October 5. … Pat Kavanagh was recalled earlier in the day and played in his fourth game of the season for the Flyers, but played just 2:39. … Kim Johnsson and Peter Forsberg remained out due to injury. … Philadelphia fell to 19-11 in one-goal games.