PHILADELPHIA -- Prior to this season, the most games James van Riemsdyk had played in a season was 37 with the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2005-06.
That could explain the midseason slump he hit, when he had just 1 goal in a 23-game span that stretched from before Thanksgiving into the first week of the New Year.
In his last eight games, however, van Riemsdyk seems to have scaled over the rookie wall he had run into. He scored for the fifth time in his last eight games as the Flyers topped the New York Rangers 2-0 on Thursday night.
Ray Emery, making his third straight start since missing six weeks due to abdominal muscle surgery, stopped all 24 shots for his first shutout since opening night.
The Rangers, who had scored 14 goals in their last two games, were shut out for the third time in their last six games. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped 25 shots.
It's also the second straight time the Flyers have shut out the Rangers -- they won 6-0 in New York on Dec. 30. New York now has gone 135:14 without a goal against the Flyers.
Van Riemsdyk gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead with his 12th goal of the season. Chris Pronger spotted van Riemsdyk coming onto the ice on a line change and sent an 80-foot pass up the middle of the ice that the rookie forward snagged in stride. Lundqvist stopped van Riemsdyk's first try from the left circle, but van Riemsdyk out-reached Rangers' defenseman Marc Staal to poke the rebound over Lundqvist's right pad at 15:10.
"I kind of fanned on the first shot a little bit, wasn't trying to shoot it low, I was trying to get it upstairs," said van Riemsdyk. "I ended up getting to the rebound and poking at it and I think I surprised him getting to the rebound."
It was the kind of play van Riemsdyk made earlier in the season, when he had 6 goals and 17 points in his first 15 games and was NHL Rookie of the Month in November.
"I expected there to be some challenges along the way, it's just up to me to battle through them," van Riemsdyk said. The last few games, he said, "I think I've been moving my feet a lot more, using my speed to my advantage, and when I do that and when I skate, I feel like our line is doing good things out there."
Ian Laperriere said he noticed a change in van Riemsdyk after the Christmas break.
"Right after Christmas he came back with his legs," Laperriere told NHL.com. "That little break to go home and have a home-cooked meal with mom and dad helped him out quite a bit. That first game back he was flying, and he hasn't stopped since then."
Emery also looks like he's rediscovered his legs. He wasn't challenged often, but made the saves he had to and said he's shaking off the last of the rust that built up during his injury layoff. His toughest saves came early, when an Aaron Voros shot caught him in the mask at 9:41 of the first period, and late, when he gloved Ryan Callahan's snap shot from the left circle.
"It's difficult when you have some time off, you've got to think about things when you get back in there," Emery said. Now, he said, "You don't have to think about as much as I did two, three games ago."
Mike Richards made it 2-0 with 2.5 seconds left in the second period. With Marian Gaborik off for slashing, Kimmo Timonen intercepted a clearing attempt by Christopher Higgins and moved the puck to Richards at the top of the left circle. He fired a shot into traffic that went off Staal's left skate and got past Lundqvist. It was Richards' 20th goal of the season and snapped a five-game goal drought.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said there wasn't one thing he could criticize his team about.
"I liked all of it, I really did," he said. "It's hard to pull out one thing or just one point. I thought the guys were committed to the way they played the game from the start to the finish."
Rangers coach John Tortorella agreed that the Flyers' strong defensive play limited his team's chances.
"They did a really good job in the neutral zone," he said. "They play a lock style, they defended the red line well. You have to give them a little credit for that. I just don't think we did a good enough job getting through it. We had a lot of turnovers there. I don't think we skated to make them move off the red line. That was the biggest problem we had, getting through there. Give them some credit, they were very disciplined there, but I don't think we did a good enough job in trying to chip the puck, get in behind them and give us a chance to forecheck."
The second period featured some major fireworks, including three fights. The Flyers' Daniel Carcillo and the Rangers' Sean Avery dropped the gloves twice each. Carcillo fought Marian Gaborik, while Avery punched it out with Scott Hartnell, and with one minute left in the period, they fought each other.
Tortorella expressed his displeasure with Carcillo, a known pugilist, going after Gaborik, the Rangers' most-skilled player and leading scorer.
"There's no honor in that," the coach said. "I don't play the game, I don't wear the uniform, so I don't want to say too much about that. There's no honor in that. It's pretty embarrassing."
Replays showed Gaborik to be the aggressor in the scuffle, but Carcillo had no problem engaging.
"I don't really know who's on that line that would be able to help him, but yeah, I wasn't expecting him to drop his gloves when he did," Carcillo said.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org