NEW YORK – Now, they can’t even beat the Rangers.
Ryan Callahan’s first career hat trick came in the first half of the game as the Rangers finally beat the Flyers, 7-0. Callahan added a fourth in the third period.
The Flyers had beaten the Rangers in all four meetings this season, a continued salting of the wound the Flyers opened when they ended the Rangers’ season last year with a shootout goal in the finale.
This time, the Rangers twisted the knife. They handed the Flyers a season-high fourth straight loss and their worst of the season. The Flyers lost to the Panthers, 5-0, Dec. 20.
Like all of the Flyers’ recent losses, this one was marked by turnovers, inconsistent effort, a rash of unwise penalties (five today) and a toothless power play, now 2-for-32 after an 0-for-5 effort.
Callahan’s third goal ended the day for Brian Boucher, who got his second start in goal in six games.
Henrik Lundqvist finished with 24 saves for the shutout for the Rangers.
The Flyers had hoped to salve the sting of consecutive home losses earmarked by blown leads, March games that built upon the faltering February theme of partial focus and undisciplined play.
They wanted to begin to rebuild a lead in the Eastern Conference that once stood at nine points over the next seed but had dropped to two points.
They needed to do all these things in their second game within a 24-hour span, their third in 4 days, their third of four games in 6 days, the start of a grueling, 15-in-29 stretch.
The last three losses have come against teams on or near the playoff bubble, teams performing in playoff mode – the most dangerous sort, really.
Teams such as the Rangers, seventh in the conference before today but only two points ahead of ninth-place Buffalo, who yesterday beat the Flyers.
The Rangers scored on their first possession, on their second shotl, when Braydon Coburn lost Brandon Dubinsky in one corner, couldn’t catch Dubinsky as Dubinsky race behind the net to the other corner, and was out of the play when Dubinsky fed Ryan Callahan in the crease. Callahan’s redirection beat Brian Boucher just 51 seconds into the game.
Boucher had little chance on that goal. He had plenty of responsibility for the next.
As a 4-on-4 situation expired into a Rangers power kill, Callahan camped in the corner to Boucher’s right. Defenseman Chris Pronger retreated to protect the middle of the ice. Boucher crouched and left Callahan plenty of goal to shoot at above his right shoulder.
Callahan obligingly snapped in his second of the game, with 9:21 left in the first period.
Shortly before the second goal Flyers ruffian Jody Shelley clobbered Brian Boyle, a fight Shelley appeared to be begging for.
There was more to it.
Moments before, Rangers pest Sean Avery had been picking at former Rangers bust Nikolay Zherdev. Shelly quickly was sent onto the ice to replace Zherdev and approached Avery, who declined Shelley’s invitation to dance.
Soon thereafter, Shelley found himself lined up to deliver a crushing hit to Matt Gilroy, which he did, legally.
Boyle then zoomed over and started the fight with Shelley.
Both got 5 minutes for fighting, but not only did Boyle lose the fight, he also was hit with a two-minute minor for instigating and a 10-minute misconduct.
The fighting theme cost the Flyers in the second period.
Mike Richards lost a long fight with Dubinsky, and was watching when Kris Versteeg and Marian Gaborkink roughed each other and created a 4-on-4.
Ville Leino lost the puck on a fancy move at one end. He and his teammates froze. Mats Zuccarello skated hard down the ght wing on a 2-on-1 rush, received a feed from Ruslan Fedotenko and beat Brian Boucher under his left pad just over 5 minutes into the second.
Boucher’s misery ended less than 90 seconds later.
Directly in front of Boucher, Callahan simply picked up a puck Versteeg left behind and beat Boucher for a 4-0 lead, Callahan’s 19th of the season. That brought on backup Sergei Bobrovsky.
Callahan beat him with 15:40 to play in the third, a goal he appeared to kick in. A review determined the goal to be legitimate.
Artem Anisimov caught the Flyers in a change with a out 5 minutes left, broke free and beat Bobrovsky to make it 6-0. Zuccarello scored again with 73 seconds left for the final tally.
It might have been worse. A second-period goal by Sean Avery was disallowed after it was determined that Avery kicked it in.
Jeff Carter missed his second game with a flu relapse. Carter missed Thursday’s game, was excused from practice Friday to attend his grandfather’s funeral in Canada, returned to the team and played Saturday, albeit unremarkably. Shortly after beginning his pregame routine in New York today, Carter stopped, dressed and left the rink. … The teams combined for 17 penalties.
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