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Talbot, Rangers shut out Flyers

by Mike G. Morreale

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot knows he must make the most of every opportunity he gets as the backup to three-time All-Star Henrik Lundqvist.

He did just on Wednesday, making 31 saves to earn his first victory of the season and the fourth shutout of his career in a 2-0 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden.

"It's a little difficult knowing that I haven't really contributed to the team much this year," Talbot said. "In my first three starts I only got one point out of six (0-2-1), so to be able to come out and provide a big win after what's been kind of a low stretch for us is pretty big."

The game was a pretty dominant performance by the Rangers, who beat the Flyers to most of the loose pucks and had the territorial advantage throughout on the way to outshooting the visitors 34-31.

"From the start of the game [we] didn't skate, didn't compete," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "It was not a good game."

The Rangers also outhit (22-21) their Metropolitan Division rival, forced nine more turnovers and won 51 percent of the faceoffs. The Rangers have won nine consecutive regular-season home games against the Flyers, dating back to March 6, 2011.

"I think everybody wanted the puck tonight," Martin St. Louis said. "Everybody wanted to be part of the solution and it reflected on the way we played. It's tiring when you have to chase the puck but tonight was one of those nights where everyone really wanted to make a play and wanted to have an impact on the game."

Kevin Klein scored in the first period and Rick Nash had a goal in the second to give Talbot all the support he needed.

"We did a great job of really coming out as a group and supporting the puck in our end," Talbot said. "No one was flying the zone and leaving odd-man opportunities in our zone and I think that's one of the things we addressed after [a 5-1 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday]."

The Flyers pulled goalie Steve Mason (32 saves) for an extra attacker with 3:31 remaining in the third but Talbot shut the door, making his final seven saves. He made an outstanding stop against Brayden Schenn, who had his five-game point streak end, with 1:15 left off a tip at the left post.

The shutout was Talbot's first since a 26-save, 5-0 victory against the Edmonton Oilers on March 30, 2014. Talbot was making his first appearance in six games.

"It was nice to get him the shutout," Nash said. "He's a guy who works so hard every practice. He's always on early and stays on after practice. He was really impressive."

The Rangers, who are scheduled to face the Buffalo Sabres on the road Friday, snapped a three-game losing streak. The Flyers, who host the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, have lost three in a row.

The Rangers opened a 2-0 lead 7:43 into the second period on a picturesque tic-tac-toe passing sequence by Derek Stepan to St. Louis to Nash during a power play. Nash took a quick shot from low in the left circle that beat Mason on the short side. It was his team-leading 13th goal of the season; he's one behind Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars for the League lead.

"I had the easy part on that one," Nash said. "Those guys had to make the passes through everyone and I almost missed it but was able to tuck it in."

Talbot made nine saves in each of the first and second periods, then stopped 13 shots in the third.

"It's important that our backup goalie play well," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Our expectation is to get into the playoffs and challenge for the Stanley Cup and you need a backup who can do what Cam did for us. This League is so competitive and tight, but Cam had a really good performance."

The 27-year-old goalie received some assistance when a scramble in front of his net forced him out of position with the puck sitting in the paint, but St. Louis was there to clear it four minutes into the third.

Nash has a point in 14 of 19 games for the Rangers this season and has a goal in 11 of those matches (13 goals, seven assists). The assist by Stepan was his fifth point in seven games since returning from a leg injury on Nov. 8.

In a bit of a surprise, Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who was originally thought to be doubtful with a lower-body injury, took pregame warmups and was in the lineup to start the game.

"The trainers did a great job of getting me ready for the game," Giroux said. "We're a team. We did a great job of communicating."

He assumed his normal role as top-line center with Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek and finished with four shots on goal in 25:45. He was 19-of-38 on faceoffs. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Tuesday that Giroux could miss as many as two games.

"I can play better," Giroux said. "I have to find a way to get our game going. Anytime you lose three in a row there's concern."

The Rangers dominated the first half of the first period and took a 1-0 lead at 5:10 when Klein equaled his career-high for goals in a season with his fourth. Carl Hagelin made the play happen when he forced a turnover behind the Flyers net and fed Klein at the right hash for a snap shot that beat Mason on the long side.

"[Mason] had a [heck] of a game," Berube said. "What upsets me is us being soft in our own end. Our goalie gave us a chance to win."

Mason was solid throughout, making several big saves in the first from in tight and another off a shorthanded break by Nash in the final minute to keep the Flyers within one goal. Talbot, who was strong when called upon, made nine saves in the first.

"They came at us quick for a good portion of the game and had some good zone time and I don't think we had a good answer," Mason said. "You get results as a team so individual performances get pushed aside. As a team, it just wasn't there for us.

The game marked the return to Madison Square Garden for Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto. The first-round pick (No. 20) by the Rangers in 2008 spent four-plus seasons with the team. Del Zotto earned 15:29 of ice time, blocked two shots and finished with a minus-1 rating. He played only one shift in the third period with a lower-body injury after a big hit by former teammate Dan Girardi late in the second.


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