PHILADELPHIA -- An injury-plagued Philadelphia Flyers team desperate for its first win of the season scored a pair of goals in the second period and had a remarkable showing on a third-period penalty kill en route to a 2-1 victory against the New York Rangers on Thursday.
Wayne Simmonds had a goal and an assist and Jakub Voracek scored what proved to be the game-winner on the power play. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 18 shots as the Flyers snapped an eight-game winless streak against the Rangers, dating to Feb. 20, 2011.
The Flyers played without two-thirds of their top line -- Brayden Schenn was suspended for a high hit Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils' Anton Volchenkov and Scott Hartnell is out four-to-eight weeks with a broken first metatarsal in his left foot sustained in Tuesday's game when he was hit by a shot by teammate Kimmo Timonen. The Flyers also were missing injured forwards Danny Briere (wrist) and Zac Rinaldo (leg), and they lost defenseman Andrej Meszaros to an upper-body injury sustained at the end of the second period. He sat out the entire third period and the Flyers say he will be re-evaluated Friday.
Pyatt's goal early in the third was the League-high seventh power-play goal allowed by the Flyers this season, but their penalty-killers recovered to save the game.
At 9:24, rookie forward Tye McGinn was assessed a double minor for high-sticking Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Just 15 seconds later, Nicklas Grossmann was sent off for hooking, giving the Rangers a two-man advantage for two full minutes. With Sean Couturier, Maxime Talbot and Braydon Coburn doing most of the work, the Flyers survived the two-man advantage, allowing the Rangers just one shot.
After Grossmann exited the box, the Flyers still had to kill off the final 1:45 of McGinn penalty, but they survived that flurry as well. In all, they allowed four shots during the 3:45 of extra-man time for the Rangers and blocked two shots.
It was the kind of confidence boost the Flyers admittedly needed after starting the season with three straight losses.
"It's huge to kill penalties like that," Talbot said. "It gives us confidence. Since the start of the year, the power play, the penalty kill, the special teams haven't been as good as we want them to be. It's great for our confidence to kill this five-on-three and to get goals on the power play as well.
"We can build a lot from tonight's game. I think we played solid for most part of the game and we can take this with us and keep building."
For a Rangers team that was coming off its first win of the season 24 hours earlier, it was a feeling of missed opportunities.
"We had a chance there with the 5-on-3, the four-minute penalty in the third period," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "Came up with a couple of chances but certainly not enough. … We made a couple big plays. He [Bryzgalov] made a really good save on [Derek] Stepan and [Rick] Nash. It's just too deliberate. We're simply not getting enough big plays from our top guys in that type of situation. That's the frustrating part. I think we may be able to steal a point if we get something happening here."
Tortorella also said he was unhappy with his team's competitiveness. He tried to shorten the bench and mix up his lines to create a spark, even splitting up his top line of Brad Richards, Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik. He put Carl Hagelin with Richards and Gaborik, and slid Nash onto a line with Derek Stepan and Pyatt.
"That top line just simply didn't play well tonight, as far as Gaby, Richards, and Nash," Tortorella said. "So we had to change it up then we shortened [the bench] then."
The players also weren't pleased by their own effort.
"I think it was spotty," captain Ryan Callahan said. "At times I thought it was there, and at other times it wasn’t. Especially with this team, you have to bring a full 60 minutes of that to win the game. And it was in and out tonight."
Simmonds put the Flyers ahead at 11:53 of the second period with his first goal of the season. Grossmann's shot from the right point hit off Richards in the slot and bounced off Simmonds' right skate and past Lundqvist.
The lead was just the Flyers' second of the season, and first since they had a one-goal lead for 10:57 in the second period of their second game of the season, against the Buffalo Sabres.
Voracek's first of the season was the Flyers' second on the power play. Kris Newbury was assessed an extra roughing minor after a fight with McGinn. On the ensuing power play, Claude Giroux badly missed a one-timer from the left circle, banging it off the end boards, but the carom went to Simmonds in the slot. Lundqvist stopped his attempt, but the rebound went to Couturier, who pushed the puck off the right post. Then the puck found its way to Voracek, who poked the puck over the goal line at 15:54.
The two goals from right in front were the kind the Flyers had been talking about needing to score during their disappointing start to the season.
"We talked about it after the Jersey game to create more traffic in front of the net because that's where the goals are going to come from," Talbot said. "Tonight is the best example of getting it and getting better at it and paying the price to get some goals."
The Rangers got within one early in the third on Pyatt's third goal of the season. New York got a power play 22 seconds in when Philadelphia defenseman Braydon Coburn was called for high sticking. On the man advantage, Grossmann slid to block a Marian Gaborik shot from the slot, but the puck bounced right back to the New York forward, who found Pyatt just to the left of the Philadelphia net for a goal at 1:39.
But that was as close as the Rangers would get, as the Flyers' penalty kill proved to be the difference.
"It was a big part of the win," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "They come out and score the power-play goal early in the third and to go back down for four shortly after that and then two minutes inside of that four … I think it was a significant part of the win."