By Harry Allison
The Flyers were trying to get two points with a win last night in Madison Square Garden, but the New York Rangers were out for revenge.
And the Rangers got payback for the loss of their captain in the best way — by getting two points in the standings.
Eight days after losing defenseman Ryan McDonagh to a concussion after being punched by Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds (above right), center Derek Stepan scored twice in the third period and goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves to help the Rangers to a 3-1 win against the Flyers at Madison Square Garden.
With 58 points, the Flyers are now six points behind Tampa Bay for the last playoff spot in the Eastern conference.
Derick Brassard scored for New York (32-18-6), which extended its point streak to six games (5-0-1). The Rangers conclude a three-game homestand against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.
Brassard’s goal came in a first period that featured 32 penalty minutes, which included a fight 39 seconds into the game between Simmonds and Rangers defenseman Dylan McIlrath. New York forward Tanner Glass also squared off against Flyers center Ryan White 20 seconds later.
“It was pretty clear. I wanted to send a message,” McIlrath said. “I wanted to stick up for my teammate, our captain, our best player. I can respect [Simmonds] for squaring up with me and I’m just happy how it all worked out.”
McDonagh missed his fourth straight game, but skated Sunday morning and could return to the lineup Wednesday.
“Points are very hard to come by,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “These two points, we wanted badly. It was a hard-fought game. There was no doubt that guys were sticking up for [McDonagh] and what happened in Philly. I can’t say I’m displeased about seeing that, but I am most pleased about how we played and that we won the game. But there’s no doubt what Dylan did there and Tanner also were a big part of the emotion that was in this game. It was a hard-fought game.”
“They wanted to do something about it,” Simmonds said. “That’s how hockey goes. We would have liked to play better.”
Lundqvist came within 9.7 seconds of his second straight shutout before Brayden Schenn scored for the Flyers (24-21-10). Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere got an assist to increase his point streak to 12 games (three goals, 12 assists), extending his NHL record by a rookie defenseman.
Steve Mason made 27 saves for the Flyers, who opened a five-game road trip. Philadelphia visits the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
“We didn’t get enough scoring chances tonight,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “That being said, we had a one-goal game going into the third period. We just needed one push and we couldn’t get that before they made it a two- and a three-goal game.”
Lundqvist made 34 saves in New York’s 3-0 win at the Pittsburgh Penguins last Wednesday. He has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his past five starts.
“I feel like I am doing a lot of good things,” Lundqvist said. “I changed a little thing here a few games ago. I feel like I am reading the play well, (being) patient. It helps when the last couple games the guys are blocking a lot of shots, getting to rebounds and helping me to focus on the puck here. They’re not giving up a lot of big chances, so I just need to come up with a few extra saves here and there, and when I do that we have a good chance of winning.”
Brassard opened the scoring 5:08 into the game. With the teams skating 4-on-4, he skated down the left wing with the puck, drove past Flyers defenseman Mark Streit and beat Mason on a wraparound to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
The Flyers had an opportunity to tie the game when it received a four-minute power play at 12:53 of the first when Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello’s stick caught Gostisbehere high. New York killed the penalty, allowing four shots.
Lundqvist kept the Flyers off the scoreboard less than eight minutes into the third period when he turned aside Claude Giroux’s snap shot from between the circles. It was Philadelphia’s first shot of the period.
Stepan doubled the Rangers’ lead when he scored with 9:26 remaining. With the teams at even strength, Zuccarello sent a backhand feed through two defenders across the crease to Stepan, who shot it into a gaping net to make it 2-0.
“I feel a lot better about my game,” said Stepan, who has scored in back-to-back games after going eight straight without a goal. “Those eight games, I’ve had my looks and it’s part of the season, to go up and down. I had a kind of goofy start to the year with jaw surgeries and the ribs and stuff like that. To be able to get in a little bit of a flow the last 10 games or so has been good.”
Zuccarello had two assists; he has at least a point in five of his past six games, including three multi-point games.
Schenn ruined Lundqvist’s shutout bid when he poked Jakub Voracek’s rebound over the goal line at 19:51.
“We had our chances,” Giroux said. “We shot a lot of pucks, they were good at blocking them. But I think their goalie played a pretty good game tonight.”
Rangers forward Rick Nash missed his ninth consecutive game because of a bone bruise on his left leg.
Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who signed a six-year contract two years ago, was recalled by Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League and played his second NHL game this season. Michael Del Zotto is out indefinitely because of an upper-body injury sustained during a 2-1 overtime loss against the Devils on Saturday.