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Flyers beat Rangers 4-1 for fifth consecutive victory

by Mike G. Morreale

PHILADELPHIA -- Blair Betts enjoys every goal he scores -- as a fourth-line center, he doesn't get many. He got a little extra enjoyment from the one he scored Thursday night.

Ex-Rangers Betts and Nikolay Zherdev scored against their former team to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-1 victory against New York at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.

The former Blueshirts each connected during a three-goal second period, and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside 20 shots in leading the Flyers to their fifth straight victory. The Russian rookie was at his best while preserving a lead in the third period, stopping all 10 shots he faced.

Betts, whose third goal of the season snapped a 1-1 tie midway, smiled when asked if scoring against his former team made the victory extra special.

"I was there for a few years but, for me, it's just nice to score since I don't do it very often," Betts said. "But to do it against a former team does make it a little more special."

Bobrovsky becomes the third rookie goalie in franchise history to win five straight games, tying Roman Cechmanek (Feb. 9-19, 2001) and Antero Niittymaki (Dec. 22-29, 2005). Pelle Lindbergh holds the record with seven consecutive wins from Dec. 22, 1982, to Jan. 4, 1983.

Bobrovsky has enjoyed his early-season success and the "Bob" chants throughout the course of every home victory.

"Of course I hear the fans chanting my name," he said. "At first it's really great, but they are not going to like you if don't play well and win."

The victory enabled the Flyers (8-4-1, 17 points) to remain atop the Atlantic Division. The Rangers fell to 6-5-1. Philadelphia will try to make it six straight on Saturday when it visits Nassau Coliseum to face the Islanders.

The Rangers head back up the New Jersey Turnpike to play the Devils in Newark on Friday after what their coach, John Tortorella, called "a crappy game."

"We didn't generate enough offense and, even though they scored four, they really didn't generate a lot either," Tortorella said. "They are too good a team to give a big lead. Those second and third goals (in the second period) kind of swung the momentum."

After Brandon Dubinsky scored a power-play goal 1:53 into the second period to put the Rangers ahead 1-0, the Flyers put three pucks past Henrik Lundqvist to take control of the game.

Mike Richards tied it when he roofed a power-play shot 5:12 into the second. Richards, standing just below the right circle, took an unbelievable no-look across-the-crease feed from Claude Giroux before ripping his second of the season behind Lundqvist with just four seconds remaining on the advantage.

"We just tried to find a soft spot on the ice," Richards said. "It seems like on their penalty-kill, they like to flood to one side. I knew that Giroux saw me and Ville, too. I was just hoping one of them would come up with the puck and they did and 'G' made a great pass."

Richards and Giroux, who had two assists, both extended their point-scoring streaks to five games.

Betts, who played with the Rangers from 2005-09 before signing with Philadelphia, scored his second career goal against his former team at 9:32 to put the Flyers ahead to stay. Betts cashed in on a turnover by Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto in the right circle by backhanding his own rebound past Lundqvist.

"Michael is trying, but he should have used his partner there," Tortorella said of Del Zotto, who's had some struggles in his own zone at times this season.

Betts finished tied for the team-lead with two takeaways and four shots against the Rangers.

"I just happened to come off the bench," Betts said. "Jeff Carter made a change. Scott Hartnell was putting pressure on (Del Zotto), enough pressure for him to lose control of the puck a little bit. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time and put in the rebound."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette rarely has to tell Betts what to do or where to be on the ice.

"It's pretty consistent with Blair … he's one of the best at what he does in the League as far as penalty-killers and playing a good defensive game," Laviolette said. "When you play the game properly, you get some opportunities once in a while. His game is very consistent, there's not a lot of maintenance to him. He goes about his business and is a professional, and he does it very well."

Zherdev, who played for the Rangers in 2008-09 before spending last season in Russia, scored his first goal since Oct. 26 when he ripped a shot from the right-wing wall along the goal line that appeared to hit Lundqvist's stick and pad before popping over his shoulder at 15:20 for a 3-1 lead.

"The last couple of games since he was inserted back in the lineup, he just seems like he's being a little more gritty and is more involved," Betts said of Zherdev. "He's obviously a really skilled guy with the puck and can make plays and score goals. I think what's going to elevate him to the next level is, he just needs to continue to play more gritty."

The Flyers extended the lead to 4-1 at 3:07 of the third period on Chris Pronger's power-play blast from the left point that beat a well-screened Lundqvist.

The scoreless first period was highlighted by a fight between enforcers Jody Shelley of the Flyers and Derek Boogaard of the Rangers just 3:16 into the game. Boogaard kept Shelley, who played briefly with the Rangers in 2009-10, off balance with some jabs and a few good rights, but neither player got in that one haymaker.

"I did think we'd go at it again, but it didn't happen … tonight," Shelley said with a grin.

Flyers forward Dan Carcillo also battled Rangers' forward Brandon Prust to a draw 3:32 into the third when tempers began to flair.

"With the Rangers and the Flyers, there's always some bad blood going on in there," Prust said. "I'm just trying to get something going."

The Flyers went 2-for-5 on the power-play on Thursday and are now 9-for-28 (32 percent) during their five-game winning streak.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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