Flyers fall, but Sloane plays well in surprise debut

  NEW YORK _ The Flyers dropped a 2-1 decision to the New York Rangers Thursday night, but still control their own destiny in the battle for the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seeding.

That's because Carolina had its nine-game winning streak stopped as it fell to Buffalo, 5-1.

David Sloane (

The Flyers, Hurricanes and Pittsburgh are tied for the No. 4 spot with 97 points. The Flyers have two games left (at the Islanders, vs. the Rangers). Carolina (at New Jersey) and Pittsburgh (at Montreal) each have one game remaining.

If the teams finish tied, the first tie-breaker is wins. Carolina has 45 victories, Pittsburgh has 44, the Flyers have 43.

The second tie-breaker is head-to-head competition. The Flyers were 3-0-1 against Carolina and 1-2-1 against Pittsburgh.

The Flyers can win the fourth seed if they go 1-0-1 in their last two games.

Winger Scott Hartnell called Thursday's performance "one of our best 60-minute efforts in a long time."

He was right. The Flyers were relentless most of the night and spent much of the game in New York's end.

The problem was, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was spectacular as he made 37 saves, including several that had the Flyers muttering to themself. (See Dan Carcillo). Carcillo again played a strong game, leading the Flyers with six shots.

But Lundqvist had all the answers, and early in the final period he made a had-to-see-it-to-believe-it glove grab of Carcillo's blast from four feet away.

"That's the way my season has gone," said Carcillo, still looking for his first goal as a Flyer.

The Flyers, stung by a controversial goal in the opening minute, fell into a 2-0 first-period hole before taking play away from the Rangers.

The Flyers have not had the lead after the first period in 17 of their last 21 games.

That's a trend that has to stop if this team is going to make playoff inroads.

* * * * * * * *

In a surprise move earlier Thursday, the Flyers signed an inexperienced defenseman and thrust him into the playoff race.

The Flyers signed 6-foot-2, 205-pound David Sloane, an Ambler resident, to an amateur tryout under emergency conditions and he gave a good account of himself in Thursday's loss to the Rangers, who clinched a playoff spot for the fourth straight season.

Sloane, the first Philadelphia-born player to ever play for the Flyers, was paired primarily with Andrew Alberts. He played 6:44, blcoked a shot and was even in the plus-minus ratings.

"The speed of the game is a lot different up here," he said after the game.

Sloane, 24, who played this season for Colgate University, replaced the injured Ryan Parent. Parent is listed as day to day with a strained groin. The Flyers hope he can play Saturday against the Islanders.

Under emergency conditions of an amateur tryout, Sloane was available to play for a 24-hour period beginning with Thursday's game. He earned just a per diem (about $100) and will go back to the AHL Phantoms on Friday.

The Flyers used him because they had no room under the cap to promote anyone else from the Phantoms.

As an amateur, Sloane was a "zero" against the cap.

"I just want to keep it simple and play my game,” Sloane said beofre the game. “I want to get the butterflies out early."

Sloane also signed an amateur tryout with the Phantoms on March 17, but had yet to appear in a game for the Flyers’ AHL affiliate.If he had, he would not have been able to play Thursday.

Sloane posted four assists and 37 penalty minutes in 35 games this season in his senior year at Colgate, where he was named to the ECAC hockey all-academic team. In 129 career games over four years at Colgate, Sloane recorded 10 goals, 13 assists for and 100 penalty minutes.

"I'm very surprised and excited about this opportunity. I had no idea this was happening,” Sloane said. “I have been with the Phantoms since our season ended at Colgate. I found out between the second and third period (Wednesday) night in Albany and I couldn't believe it.”

Added Sloane: "Just throwing the Flyers uniform on and playing at a place like Madison Square Garden has been a dream of mine my whole life.”