New York, NY – The Philadelphia Flyers scored three power play goals in the first period, including two by Mike Knuble, as they defeated the New York Rangers 6-3 Wednesday night. With the win, the Flyers move into a first place tie with the Rangers in the Atlantic Division.
The victory was Philadelphia's seventh straight at Madison Square Garden and third this year, but it was the first time all season the Flyers defeated the Rangers in regulation. Their previous two wins in the season series were both in overtime.
The opening 20 minutes was a wild seesaw battle that ended up with Philadelphia holding a 3-2 lead.
With the Flyers trailing 2-1, Rangers center Ryan Hollweg drilled R.J. Umberger into the boards from behind on a blatantly dirty hit. While Hollweg had a seat in the New York locker room following his checking-from-behind major and game misconduct, he missed Philadelphia taking control of the game due to his penalty.
Knuble scored his second deflection goal of the game when he tipped a shot by Simon Gagne at 17:30 to make it 2-2. Michal Handzus gave Philadelphia its first lead of the game in the closing seconds, burying the rebound of a shot by Brian Savage while stationed in front of the goal crease with less than a second showing on the clock.
"Of late, things have been clicking a lot more on the power play," said Knuble. "That was a big momentum swinger for the game. We finished the period with that extremely late goal and kind of held it from there."
Umberger got stitches in the locker room and checked out by a doctor, but later returned in the second period despite what was a very scary moment for the rookie center, as well as his teammates and coaches.
"It's a huge lift for everybody," said Hitchcock of Umberger's return. "We thought he was done for a long time. That was such a serious hit; we thought he was done. To come back and play, and play as well as he did, was pretty impressive."
"It's a dangerous play no matter how you look at it, and they have to keep that out of hockey," said Umberger. "It definitely changed the game, and at this point with the race in the division that's a tough play on their part to do that."
NHL leading goal-scorer Jaromir Jagr
scored the two goals for New York with quick wrist shots from the faceoff circle and the high slot, respectively. In between Jagr's scores was Knuble's deflection of a point shot by Joni Pitkanen, also on the power play.
Philadelphia finished the game 3-for-5 on the man advantage and killed of two of three New York power plays.
In the second period, Gagne's second goal in as many nights put the Flyers ahead by two. After a turnover by defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh, Gagne went in alone on Henrik Lundqvist and fired the puck past the Rangers' goaltender at 5:48.
It was Jagr again for New York, however, cutting the lead to 4-3 when his power play goal ricocheted off of the far post and in to complete the hat trick with 3:15 left in the period. Jagr now has 14 points in six games against Philadelphia this season (9g, 5a) and has 49 goals total on the season.
A relatively uneventful third period had the Flyers holding onto their one-goal lead before Jeff Carter's fourth goal in five games gave Philadelphia some insurance. Carter fought off New York defenseman Fedor Tyutin and took a wrist shot from the faceoff dot that found its way through Lundqvist with Umberger setting a screen at 12:50.
Sami Kapanen's shorthanded, empty-net goal with 13 seconds left capped the scoring.
"The way we played in the second and third periods, we didn't give up a whole lot and we out shot them and played well and everybody hustled defensively," said Peter Forsberg. "That's how we've got to play."
Robert Esche finished the night with 20 saves to record the win, while Lundqvist took the loss allowing five goals on 35 shots.
The division rivals will meet twice more this season; April 4 in New York and April 15 at the Wachovia Center as the battle for the division should only get more intense.
"The way the schedule is set now, your destiny is in your hands," said Knuble.
Philadelphia returns home to play the Ottawa Senators on Saturday at the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., CSN).FLYERS NOTES
The Rangers had a three-game winning streak snapped, while the Flyers won their third straight. … For the second straight game, Branko Radivojevic, Turner Stevenson and Randy Jones were the scratches. … Knuble had a great chance for a hat trick himself, but Lundqvist robbed him on a rebound attempt with less than three minutes left in the game. It was his fifth two-goal game of the season. … Eric Desjardins played in his 726th game as a Flyer, moving him into eighth place on the all-time list ahead of Gary Dornhoefer.