"Every step and every win is a little bit of confidence that you can gather and use to your advantage," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "Our mind-set going into the game [was] . . . thinking that you're going to win the game even before the game is played. You can gain some steam to that as a team."
James van Riemsdyk gave the Flyers a one-goal edge with 4:50 remaining in the first period after Chris Pronger sprung him on a breakaway. Van Riemsdyk, who said he "flubbed" on the original shot, was able to outmuscle Marc Staal and bat his rebound behind Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
But the hotly contested, chippy game took a strange turn when Rangers star Gaborik - who had just one previous bout on his career fight card - dropped the gloves with Flyers tough guy Dan Carcillo 5 minutes into the second period.
Gaborik was no match for Carcillo, who made quick work of him with a few swift rights. With 61 points, Gaborik is by far the Rangers' most important weapon. Carcillo said after the game that he was surprised to see Gaborik come after him - with no Rangers teammates in sight.
"I wasn't expecting him to drop his gloves when he did," Carcillo admitted. "I was pretty much licking my chops."
Always colorful Rangers coach John Tortorella responded by screaming across to Laviolette on the Flyers bench.
"There's no honor, there's no honor in that," Tortorella said after the game. "[Carcillo's] a brave guy, huh? He's a brave guy. It's pretty embarrassing."
Tortorella contended that Carcillo targeted Gaborik, the Rangers top scorer. The video replays instead showed Gaborik giving Carcillo a slight cross-check after a scrum in front of the net. Gaborik dropped the gloves first.
Laviolette said he didn't hear Tortorella yelling at him.
"I didn't see him yelling," Laviolette said. "I'm not sure what he was yelling about. That's not the way I saw it. We were outnumbered, Danny came in and picked somebody off the pile and Gaborik dropped his gloves first. So Danny can either get punched or he can drop his and fight.
"I don't think he makes a habit of going after the other team's top players and skilled players. He does a lot of dirty work that other people don't want to do and usually it's with guys, like an [Sean] Avery or a [Aaron] Voros, guys that are pretty tough."
After Avery responded for New York (almost 7 minutes after Gaborik's scrap) with two fights, Mike Richards scored to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead. Richards beat Lundqvist with a shot off Staal's skate with only 2.5 ticks remaining in the second period.
The Rangers were ready to drop the gloves at the drop of the puck to start the third, and Arron Asham answered for the Flyers by squaring off with Voros. Asham wouldn't let Voros, or the Rangers, change the momentum.
"It's nice to see that we answered the bell when things needed to be done," Richards said. "It's great to see that we can shut teams down. It was a great game by us, all in all."
The Flyers said last night's game had a playoff feel to it, in front of 19,631 fans chanting "Avery [stinks]!"
"It was a playoff-style atmosphere out there," Pronger said. "We were a desperate team. We needed to beat them to close the gap with them, with obviously playoffs at stake. We played very well with that on the line."
"Those games are fun," Asham said. "It's a good atmosphere, a couple fights - it's fun hockey."
For once, Laviolette - a fair critic of his own team - couldn't find fault in the way his team played. The Flyers allowed just 24 shots on goal and New York had only a handful of true scoring chances.
"The other team didn't have much," said Flyers goalie Ray Emery, who recorded his second shutout of the season and 10th of his career.
"I liked all of it, I really did," Laviolette said. "I thought the guys were committed to the way they played the game from the start to the finish."
The Flyers are 8-4-1 this season against Atlantic Division opponents . . . Marian Gaborik's only other fight came against Flyers forward Ian Laperriere . . . Rangers rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who was a minus-3 against the Flyers on Dec. 30, played 25:05 (the most by any Ranger), blocked three shots and had three hits . . . The Flyers were outhit, 29-25 . . . Skating on the first line with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, Darroll Powe had six hits.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.