No one would’ve guessed that the Rangers hadn’t seen game action in five days.
For they were sharp and opportunistic against a downward spiraling Flyers team, who dropped their seventh straight game after the Blueshirts came away with a 4-1 victory at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
The Rangers have now tied their season-high win streak of four games, while Philadelphia has dropped nine of their last 11.
With plenty of practice days to prepare, the Rangers were anything but rusty from the moment they took the ice Wednesday night. Getting in behind the Flyers’ defense and poking holes in the visiting team’s structure any time Philadelphia gained possession in the offensive zone, the Rangers emerged from the opening 20 minutes with a 2-0 lead.
Philadelphia pushed back a bit in the middle frame, outshooting the Rangers 16-5. Though the Rangers carried over their momentum from the first period and managed to capitalize on it, after a tic-tac-toe play between Mika Zibanejad, Kaapo Kakko and Chris Kreider 34 seconds in ended with Kreider’s 16th goal of the season.
Artemi Panarin added an empty-netter in the final seconds.
The Rangers, however, were forced to roll with 11 forwards for a majority of the game after Dryden Hunt was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for charging Flyers defenseman Justin Braun early in the second period. The call was questionable, as Hunt’s skates never left the ice and he made a noticeable effort to turn his body away from the hit.
Nevertheless, the Flyers were granted a five-minute power play. Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin, however, went into one of his brick-wall modes. At one point, Shesterkin threw his stick in the air to bump the puck up against the crossbar and out. He then used Jacob Trouba’s stick to make three more saves, which brought the Garden crowd to its feet as an ‘I-GOR!’ chant reverberated throughout the arena.
Shesterkin made seven saves during the lengthy power play, finishing with 33 saves on the night.
The Rangers were suddenly down to 10 forwards by the halfway mark of the third period. Barclay Goodrow rushed to the locker room after a shot from Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle rolled up his stick and nailed him directly in the face.
Even though they lost two players, the Rangers established — and never relinquished — control over the game in the first. After Flyers center Morgan Frost was called for high-sticking Julien Gauthier just over two minutes into the first, Trouba blasted one from the top of the zone to put the Rangers on the board. It was also the second power-play unit’s first goal of the season.
As the Flyers jumbled up their defensive pairs early on, the Rangers continued to pick them apart. Panarin hit Hunt with a cross-ice pass and he settled it with his skate before putting it in for the 2-0 lead at 9:32. It was just the second time in Hunt’s career that he scored goals in back-to-back games.