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Brassard's two goals lead Rangers past Flyers

by Mike G. Morreale /

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault knows how fired up Derick Brassard gets whenever he finds himself matched against Philadelphia Flyers captain and childhood friend, Claude Giroux.

Such was the case Saturday when Brassard struck for a season-high two goals while limiting the Flyers top-line center to one shot to lead the New York Rangers to a 5-2 victory at Madison Square Garden.

"I talked to [Brassard] about playing against his childhood friend, making sure he was on the top of his game at both ends of the rink," Vigneault said. "I thought his line [with left wing Rick Nash and right wing Mats Zuccarello] did a good job. When [Brassard] was against Giroux, he did a good job."

Take away the first half of the second period and the Rangers had their way for the third time this season against the Flyers. The Rangers, who have won all three games against the Flyers by a combined 10-2, outshot the Flyers, 35-23.

New York was actually playing without the services of three usual starters, including forward Chris Kreider, who was home with his family after the passing of his grandfather, forward Tanner Glass (mumps) and defenseman Dan Boyle (flu). Replacing Kreider in the lineup was recent call-up J.T. Miller, who had a goal and one assist. Filling in for Boyle was John Moore, who logged 16:02 of ice time and had two hits.

Brassard's second goal of the game, off a 3-on-2 rush with Kevin Hayes and Lee Stempniak 3:06 into the third, snapped a 2-2 tie. After taking a feed from Hayes, Brassard skated into the left circle and beat Flyers goalie Ray Emery over the right shoulder.

"Our line has been playing well without the puck but offensively we didn't have that many scoring chances," Brassard said. "I felt we needed to step up a little bit and I needed to shoot the puck more to get those scoring chances and that's what happened."

Jesper Fast scored his first NHL goal and added an assist, defenseman Kevin Klein had two assists and a game-high seven hits, and Stempniak scored into an empty net with 23.9 seconds remaining. Henrik Lundqvist earned his ninth win of the season with 21 saves. The Flyers received goals from Nicklas Grossman and Jakub Voracek. Emery had 30 saves.

The fourth line of Fast, Miller and Dominic Moore combined for six shots and seven hits; just what Vigneault needed to see.

"That line played a real strong game," Vigneault said. "In the second, for eight or nine minutes, we sort of lost momentum than that line came back, scored the tying goal. After that, I really thought we had the momentum from the end of the second. We were able to capitalize on a couple of opportunities on the long shifts on their part in the third."

The Flyers took their first lead in the second when Voracek scored his team-leading ninth of the season on the power play at 8:45.

"I don't think [the Flyers] had any business being in this game. We were playing so well and had a few chances and I wasn't able to come up with the saves and it was frustrating," Lundqvist said.

Voracek's goal seemed to give the Flyers an adrenaline boost. When Fast scored at 11:38 of the second to even it 2-2, that momentum swung to the side of the Rangers for the remainder of the game.

Fast took a pass from Klein in the high slot, skated into the right circle and swept a shot along the ice that beat Emery to the far side.

"I definitely going to keep [the puck] for a good memory; keep it back home somewhere and put it with my other pucks," said Fast, who was given the Broadway Hat.

Miller retrieved the puck for his linemate, who was celebrating with teammates at the time.

"I spent a lot of time with [Fast] the past few years [in the American Hockey League] and played with him in Hartford," Miller said. "It's really great to see him score. It was just a matter of time. He has a good scoring touch and you saw that."

After Brassard broke the tie early in the third, Miller tacked on the insurance goal when he made a strong move to the cage, curled the Flyers net and tucked the puck just inside the right post on a wraparound past Emery at 9:54.

"It's great to see [Miller] play the way he is," forward Derek Stepan said. "It's no secret that the kid can really play."

The Rangers, 4-2-2 in their past eight games, will next play the Tampa Bay Lighting on Monday at the Garden. The Flyers, 1-7-1 in their past nine games, continue their five-game road trip Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.

"It's really evident out there that we're not skating like we can and not making the plays like we can, with speed" Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "It's confidence, a lot of it, but we need to find it. It's my job to help them get it and you have to get going. You've got to man up and go win hockey games."

The Rangers have won the past 10 regular-season home games against the Flyers dating back to March 6, 2011. The longest home winning streak by the Rangers against an opponent is 11 games, also against the Flyers from Jan. 14, 1990 to Nov. 4, 1992.

"This has nothing to do with the coach, nothing to do with systems, it's on us," Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said.

The teams exchanged goals in the first. Brassard snapped home his seventh of the season off a pass from Nash at 2:50 with the Rangers on the power play to open the scoring. The goal came with Giroux serving a double minor for high sticking.

"It's great to see the young players contributing," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. "To see J.T. Miller, a player who has been up and down do so well, it's a great opportunity for him to showcase himself. I think he came in with the attitude and was a little frustrated after the first period but stayed with it.

"I'm very happy for [Fast]. He's been playing tremendous since being called back up, making a lot of little plays and he gets rewarded with a huge goal."

The Flyers evened the score at 13:46 when Grossman took a pass from Voracek and skated into the right circle before ripping the puck into the top far corner past Lundqvist. The goal was the first for Philadelphia against the Rangers in three games this season, a span of 133:46.

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