PHILADELPHIA -- So, the Rangers are now 9-1 in their last 10 road games. It would be silliness to think the one loss erases the nine that came before it.
"We weren't going to go undefeated the rest of season," David Quinn said.
No one in the visitors' room afterward was taking a happy view of a loss, but trying, rather, to take in the bigger picture -- and considering the Rangers' record since the early part of January, considering that they were playing the last of three games in four nights on the road against a rested and home-happy opponent, and facing a goaltender who has found some sort of magic elixir in the banks of the Delaware River, the ingredients were there for the 5-2 loss the Rangers had to eat in Philadelphia on Friday night.
That's not the loss, though, that was so hard to swallow moving forward. That one occurred with a little over 12 minutes gone in the game, when Chris Kreider went down with what turned out to be a fractured foot. Quinn wasn't about to speculate afterward just how much time the Rangers will have to make do without such a crucial part of the late-season run they are on; regardless, they will have to make do.
"It's tough. I don't know how to put it into words really," Mika Zibanejad, whom the Rangers had to do without for a month earlier in the year, said afterward. "Obviously a key player and a key guy in the locker room and on the ice. And obviously, for our line and for the rest of the team. So it (stinks)."
The Rangers were leading -- on a beautiful goal by Jesper Fast set up by Artemi Panarin -- and seemingly picking up where they left off in their win in Montreal the night before, when Kreider got in the way of a Philippe Myers slapshot and went down to the ice and then straight to the bench. He tried coming back for his next shift but lasted only a moment before going in to get checked.
Sean Couturier scored just a few minutes later, the first of five straight goals for the Flyers as they became the first team in more than six weeks to win a game when the Rangers came for a visit.
And so the Blueshirts' road winning streak was halted at nine games, two more than any Ranger team has ever put together in the 94-year history of the franchise. Only seven teams in NHL history have had longer ones.
Over these past three weeks, though, the Rangers have made it easy to forget just how well they have responded after losses this season: They are 18-6 in their last 24 games following a defeat. It's one reason Quinn, unaccustomed to addressing losses lately, said after this one: "I'm not worried how we're going to handle adversity. I already know how we're going to handle adversity.
"We will dust ourselves off and get right back at it on Sunday" -- which is when the Rangers will have the chance to host the Flyers for the first time this season in Midtown Manhattan to complete this home-and-home.
The opener, though, belonged to Philly. The League-leaders in home-ice wins, who were finishing a three-game homestand and had been sitting idle since Tuesday, got the go-ahead goal from James van Riemsdyk in the second period and a pair of scores spanning second intermission from Claude Giroux. Jakub Voracek set up four of the Flyers' goals, including Kevin Hayes' third in two games this season against the Rangers that made it 5-1 before Brett Howden closed out the scoring in the final half-minute of the game.
Philadelphia won for the fifth straight time, and for the League-best 23rd time at home, while their goaltender, Carter Hart, improved his record to 18-2-2 in the Flyers' rink in the parking lot beside the Delaware, against 3-10-1 on the road.
The Rangers, meanwhile, had their own five-game winning streak snapped, despite 35 saves from Alexandar Georgiev, and lost for just the second time in the last 11 games. Even before Friday night, the Blueshirts already had set a new franchise mark by squeezing 11 victories into the month of February.
"Look at this whole month -- we've been playing really good hockey, we've really been stepping up, and we've just got to make sure that this game doesn't ruin what we've built up this month," said Zibanejad. "It's one game, and we've been doing a lot of good things over a longer period of time. We've just got to make sure that this doesn't ruin that and just move on.
Aim to get better on Sunday."
The start to Friday's game could not have been much better, although in retrospect the whole thing bore an eerie similarity to the Rangers' first visit here, including that early goal from Fast -- "very similar games," Quinn said afterward.
The beauty of that early goal lay not just in the Panarin pass that set it up but the hands Fast displayed throughout the play. It happened when Panarin saw Fast flying up the right wing and rifled a 100-foot pass to him -- Fast received it while it was still airborne, never breaking stride, and when his shot popped into the air off Hart's catching glove, Fast reached out and bunted it backhanded out of the air as he was flying by the net.
"I liked our game early," Quinn said, "I thought early on we were doing a really good job managing the game, and we got the lead."
But a bad break for the Blueshirts -- Brendan Smith's snapped stick, to be exact -- opened the door for Voracek to step out in front and feed Couturier across the crease to tie it. Still, the game didn't take a left turn for the Rangers until they were through having to kill a stupefying holding call against Adam Fox; just moments after it had expired, van Riemsdyk scored a rebound goal on a rush at the 13-minute mark of the second, and "we really get deflated after that," Quinn said.
They can get up off the mat, which is what they've done all season, when the return match comes to Madison Square Garden on Sunday. "We have to move forward from that game," Georgiev said. "We've had a pretty good run and things like that happen sometimes. We just were running on empty today."