Flyers beat Rangers, 4-2, to even series
NEW YORK - Trailing by two goals barely 8 minutes into Game 2, the drama on Broadway was playing like something out of "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York."
Like Kevin McAllister, the Flyers were begging to go home - if not begging to be swept in their first-round series against the Rangers.
Having come back from a 2-0 series deficit only three times in franchise history, the Flyers' season seemed to be slowly slipping away.
But Craig Berube did not call a timeout. Looking up and down the Flyers' quiet bench, it was Jake Voracek who piped up to tell his teammates to calm down.
"You could feel we had better jump than Thursday," Voracek said. "We were down, but we were skating better, we were hitting better. We knew if we stuck to the gameplan, we were going to turn that game around."
Somehow, someway, the Flyers banged in three unanswered goals on "King" Henrik Lundqvist in his own court. With their 4-2 victory in Game 2, knotting the best-of-seven series at one game apiece, the Flyers not only left their demons behind in Manhattan, but also brought along home-ice advantage when they climbed aboard their train bound for 30th Street Station.
Game 2 marked the Flyers' first win in 10 tries at Madison Square Garden since Feb. 20, 2011.
Now, the Flyers need only to win their remaining home games to advance to the Metropolitan Division final. Game 3 is 8 o'clock tomorrow night at Wells Fargo Center, where they've beaten the Rangers twice this season.
"When you start on the road, you hope for a split," Luke Schenn said. "We didn't play the way we were capable of in the first game. This wasn't the start we wanted in the second game, but guys had to dig in and find an extra gear. We did that and we found a way to get the split."
Against just about every odd - six power plays against, a two-goal hole, not a single shot on goal from Claude Giroux for the fourth time this season against New York, and no Steve Mason - the Flyers sent a statement to the Rangers: We've arrived.
Jason Akeson atoned for his costly, Game 1 penalty to score the game-tying goal. Luke Schenn, of all people, added the game-winner. Each one of the Flyers' four lines factored into the scoring.
Ray Emery, who stopped all 29 of the remaining shots he faced after a tough start, outplayed and outbattled Lundqvist to reward the Flyers for their confidence in him.
As impressive as all of those facets were in the Easter Sunday resurrection, they paled in comparison to the third period. The Flyers, one of the NHL's best third-period teams all season, crumbled in the final act of Game 1. They'd been outscored, 17-5, in the third period of their last eight games.
Yesterday in the third, they outshot New York in a period (8-7) for the first time all series. Really, the outcome never seemed in doubt. And it could have been quite shaky, given the scant lead, the constant peppering of Emery in the previous period, and the uneasiness of the Garden's big stage.
"We just played the same way we did in the first and second," Giroux said. "The third period, we've struggled a little bit. We'd kind of gotten away from how we've got to play. We did a good job."
With perhaps their season on the line, the Flyers controlled play in the third because they never sat back. They were aggressive and won faceoff battles. Adam Hall even chased down a loose puck for a shorthanded breakaway early, long before Wayne Simmonds' empty-netter.
After taking the Rangers' best punch in the first two periods, the Flyers readjusted and threw some of their own. It was their most complete 20 minutes in weeks.
"They had a one-goal lead and they defended well," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Our best period of the night was the second period, one where we generated the most opportunities and the most Grade A looks. And they scored twice and we didn't."
Berube sent Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Akeson on the ice to start the third - something he believed "set the tone for the period." They were confident and calm, like their coach.
"They just had an attack mentality and I think the rest of the team fed off it," Berube said. "They got it in deep right away and put some pucks on net. We didn't sit back. We tried to make it a two-goal deficit [for the Rangers]."
Even without a specific line matchup against the balanced Rangers, Couturier was perhaps the Flyers' best player, and that's saying something considering how well Emery played. The third-year forward was physical and composed with the puck. He refused to allow the Flyers' one-goal edge to evaporate.
"All year, we came from behind in the third, except for the last few games," Couturier said. "We know we can play some solid third-period hockey. We just needed to do it."
Now, the Flyers have done it, and they've flipped this once ominous-looking matchup on its head. Any chatter of a sweep has been replaced by the Flyers in the conductor's seat heading home. They are 30-7 all-time in a playoff series when winning Game 2.
"You come here and you have to get at least a split," Brayden Schenn said. "You don't want to be down, 2-0, heading to your own building. It's not going to be easy there, either. But it's going to be a long series."
Since Claude Giroux joined the Flyers in 2008, this was just their second win at the Garden without him scoring (2-13-0) . . . The Flyers have had four power plays this series compared to New York's 12 . . . Have the Flyers given Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh too much respect? McDonagh has been on the ice for three of the Flyers' five goals this series . . . New York outshot the Flyers, 69-40, through the first two games . . . Yesterday was Ray Emery's first playoff win in exactly 3 years: April 20, 2011, with Anaheim vs. Nashville.
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