Flyers fall to Rangers in Game 5, now face elimination
NEW YORK - The puck squirted through Hal Gill's legs and Dominic Moore spun the Flyers' brute around like a New York City subway turnstile before beating Steve Mason on a breakaway.
As the 18,006 inside Madison Square Garden furiously waved their white rally towels to celebrate the Rangers' three-goal, second-period lead, Gill skated toward the Flyers' bench while fingers waggled at him 90 miles away in Philadelphia.
Really, though, it was Braydon Coburn's panicked pass - serving as the grenade in Gill's skates - that perfectly summed up the Flyers' maddening, 4-2 loss to the Rangers yesterday afternoon.
"We were a little too sloppy," defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. "It just kind of seemed like errant passes, we weren't executing on the plays we wanted to and that cost us. We weren't making strong plays, good decisions."
The Rangers weren't so much good as they were opportunistic; Henrik Lundqvist was not great as much as the Flyers were disconcerted.
Perhaps, for the Flyers, that is the play in their Silver Linings Playbook; without a hint of crispness, the Flyers outchanced New York but lost their 11th game in 12 tries at the Garden because they beat themselves.
"There were plays that, if we executed, we probably could have had success," coach Craig Berube said. "We didn't execute. If we do, it's a different game. I don't think it was a lack of focus or effort. I thought the team competed hard. The passing wasn't great."
The Flyers certainly did not drop the game for a lack of chances - as power play after power play and odd-man rush after rush withered away. Game 5 was there for the taking, but not after the Flyers failed to capitalize on any of their first four power-play chances.
Now, heading home trailing, 3-2, in the best-of-seven Metropolitan Division semifinal series, the Flyers have left themselves in a familiar spot: no margin for error.
Game 6 is tomorrow night (7:30) at the Wells Fargo Center.
"We put ourselves in this situation again," Claude Giroux said. "We're playing well. We need to keep playing. We're a team with a lot of character, a passionate team. We're not looking at [Game 6] like it's our last game of the season. We've come back all season long when it matters."
The Flyers are 30-36 all-time in elimination games. They have been able to force a Game 7 seven of the 17 times they've been mired in a 3-2 series deficit; they've only completed the comeback three times in franchise history. The last time, of course, was in Boston in 2010.
Although the Rangers are 13-2 all-time in series with a 3-2 lead, they have lost 11 consecutive games when leading a series. So, there is that. And that the Flyers set a franchise record with 11 third-period comebacks this season, helping to dig themselves out of a 1-7 start for the right to compete against the Rangers.
Mostly though, the Flyers stepped off their train in 30th Street Station last night confident in the fact that they've yet to play their best game of the series. One problem: even with a .926 save percentage, Lundqvist can say the same thing.
"We've got to come out in Game 6 and realize that we can play a lot better," Scott Hartnell said. "We need to make life a lot tougher for Lundqvist. It's do or die. We've been excellent in crunch time when we need big wins."
Every goal the Rangers scored on Steve Mason was a result of a garbage fire in front of him, to put it kindly. Coburn failed to step in to block Marc Staal's first-period goal that made it 1-0, but reasoned postgame that Mason had trouble with it because the Rangers were crashing the net. Then, the Rangers made it 2-0 when they outnumbered the Flyers as Hartnell was forced to change late because of a broken stick. All of which led to Coburn's ill-advised pass to Gill's feet, and it was 3-0.
Gill, 39, playing in just his seventh game of the season, was little more than a scapegoat. Coburn refused to take ownership for his poor pass on what turned out to be the game-winner, saying only it was a "bad bounce."
Even celebrities like Jim Carrey, Susan Sarandon and Whoopi Goldberg knew the Flyers' flop on Broadway could not be blamed on the poor ice conditions.
It was troubling for the Flyers because they were actually given a little more time and space by the Rangers' usually aggressive defense. They had more odd-man rushes in their favor in the first 10 minutes of Game 5 than they had in Games 1 and 2 combined. The Flyers' mistakes seemed elementary, throwing pucks blindly to empty areas of the ice, which served as clean breakouts for the Rangers.
"We weren't at our best all game," MacDonald said. "We had a pretty good opportunity to get something going. I think sometimes you just want to make a great play. Sometimes, the simple play might be the right play. I think we have to do a much better job identifying who's open. We know what we're capable of. We've been down in this series a couple times."
Hartnell joked postgame that the Rangers "hardly hit anybody all day." This has been a strange, seesaw, first-round series with no venom. There is no Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin to pile on. The Flyers have been their own biggest villain, leaving at least a glimmer of hope.
"We're confident because, as a team, we feel we could play better," Berube said. "It's not like we're getting outplayed. It's a tight series. It's right there. I think we've had our backs against the wall all year, fighting. Fighting for a lot of things, playoffs. Our team will fight again."
Craig Berube ruled out defenseman Nick Grossmann (lower-body injury) for Game 6 . . . Two positives for the Flyers: They have killed off 15 straight power plays and Claude Giroux scored his first goal of the series. Yesterday was the first time ever the Flyers lost at the Garden when Giroux scored (3-1) . . . The Flyers outshot the Rangers, 26-22, marking the fourth consecutive game this series that the losing team outshot the winning team.
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