Callahan’s hat trick dooms Flyers
Everything seems to go right for the New York Rangers when they play the Flyers, even their anemic power play.
Ryan Callahan scored three goals and the Rangers beat Philadelphia 5-2 on Saturday for their seventh straight win over the Flyers.
Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov also had goals for the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers, who broke out of their power-play funk and improved to 5-0 against the Flyers this season — including a win in the Winter Classic.
It was a rare display on special teams that catapulted the Rangers to their second victory over Philadelphia in seven days. New York had a season-high three goals on the power play.
”We felt it was coming,” Callahan said. ”We knew we had guys who can execute. It was a matter of getting some bounces.”
New York increased its lead to six points over the Flyers in the Atlantic Division and have two games in hand.
”I was a little disappointed with the effort, actually,” Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. ”The emotional level, top team in the conference, league. It was a big game for us, and I was expecting more.”
The Rangers entered with the fourth-worst power-play unit in the NHL, converting just 13.4 percent of their chances. They failed to score on their first man-advantage, but then got going when Callahan scored in the first period. New York capitalized on three straight opportunities with the man advantage.
”Special teams are huge,” Gaborik said. ”Hopefully we can take off from here.”
Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds had Philadelphia’s goals. The Flyers have lost four of five, and are losing their hold on fourth place in the East.
Henrik Lundqvist had 31 saves in another outstanding effort against a team that can’t seem to beat him. The Flyers’ top line of Giroux, Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell have combined for two goals against Lundqvist this season.
”You need some luck. They are a good team,” Lundqvist said.
The crowd at Madison Square Garden chanted ”You can’t beat us” at the Flyers during New York’s 5-2 victory last Sunday. Some of the brave, blue-shirted fans who made the trip down I-95 threw caps on the ice to celebrate Callahan’s second NHL hat trick after he scored to make it 5-2 in the third period.
The Rangers, who earned a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season last year and lost to Washington in the first round, have a comfortable grip on first place in the conference. They have a five-point lead over the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
John Tortorella, the demanding coach who led Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup title in 2004, has the Rangers playing like the Lightning did that season. They are 18-5-1 since mid-December and appear poised to make a serious run at their first Cup championship since 1994.
”We’re just trying to keep the swagger on against every team we play,” Tortorella said. ”We just want to be consistent. It doesn’t matter who we play.”
Callahan gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead midway through the second period when he tipped Michael Del Zotto’s pass past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Flyers had tied it 2:39 earlier when Giroux scored on a breakaway. Lundqvist made a glove save on Giroux’s initial shot, but the All-Star forward poked the rebound in for his 22nd goal.
A giveaway behind the net helped the Rangers extend their lead to 4-2 in the third period. Anisimov redirected a pass from Derek Stepan past Bobrovsky to give New York its first two-goal cushion.
”I think it’s clear they have our number right now. There’s no hiding from it,” Simmonds said.
Less than four minutes after the Flyers tied it at 1 in the first, Gaborik scored to put the Rangers ahead again. Gaborik redirected Brad Richards’ crossing pass over Bobrovsky’s shoulder for his 27th goal.
Philadelphia’s Tom Sestito, who got in three fights in last Sunday’s loss, drew a double minor and a misconduct penalty for a scrum with Stu Bickel in the first period.
The Rangers quickly took advantage on the ensuing power play. Gaborik set up New York’s tally with a crisp pass to Callahan, who took a shot from the side of the net that bounced off Bobrovsky and went in.
The Flyers answered when Andrej Meszaros’ slap shot hit Simmonds and went past Lundqvist. Just before Philadelphia’s rush, Zac Rinaldo delivered a crushing check on Derek Stepan at the opposite end of the ice.
Bobrovsky made an outstanding save early to prevent the Flyers from falling behind. He slid across the crease from right to left and blocked Gaborik’s one-timer during a 2-on-1 break.
Gaborik made up for it later.
Notes: With Ilya Bryzgalov out with the flu for the second straight game, Jacob Bacashihua backed up Bobrovsky. … Lundqvist is 21-10-3 vs. Philadelphia. … Simmonds has six goals in 10 games and 18 this season. … The Flyers are 4-8-1 in games that start before 7 p.m. … New York has outscored Philadelphia 29-10 during its winning streak. … The Rangers are 11-3-1 against the Atlantic Division. … The Flyers are 13-9-5 at home.