Flyers continue their Big Apple slump

USA TODAY SPORTS Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist makes a save against the Flyers in the first period.
USA TODAY SPORTS Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist makes a save against the Flyers in the first period.
Posted: March 28, 2014

NEW YORK - Three years ago, Madison Square Garden embarked on a three-phase, $1 billion renovation to the "World's Most Famous Arena."

Concourses were widened. Ice-level suites were added. A sparkling new scoreboard was hung.

Every seat was ripped out of the building. Apparently, also cleaned out was any ability for the Flyers to string together three periods somewhat resembling professional hockey there.

Amid the buzz and the bright lights of Broadway, the Flyers' biggest stars from Broad Street simply forgot to show up in a befuddling, 3-1 loss last night that could serve as an ugly harbinger of a first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

"We didn't have our best players playing tonight," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "Not enough guys gave what we needed to win the hockey game. We need to battle harder. They skated well. They checked well. We let them do it - not enough fight."

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, serenaded by the Garden faithful with chants of "Hen-rik, Hen-rik," flummoxed the Flyers to better his career record to a sparkling 26-12-3 against them. Jake Voracek scored his 100th career goal on the power play with 1:53 remaining to break up what would have been Lundqvist's fifth career shutout against the Flyers - but it was of little consolation.

Last night marked the Flyers' eighth consecutive loss at the Garden. They've been outscored, 31-8, during that stretch. The Flyers have not won in New York since Feb. 20, 2011 - when Peter Laviolette was still behind the bench and Mike Richards was captain.

On this night, the Flyers' best scoring chances came from their fourth line, composed of Adam Hall, Zac Rinaldo and Michael Raffl.

The rest of the Flyers' troops, save for Wayne Simmonds and Steve Mason, were conspicuously absent until the waning moments - against a Rangers team that was missing Chris Kreider and had two other top players (Marty St. Louis and Derek Stepan) battling the flu.

"We got away from what was making us successful," Mason said. "You look at the intensity brought in games against Pittsburgh, I just felt it wasn't there tonight. These are huge games for us. For us to not come out with our best effort, we need better."

Claude Giroux, who has climbed into the conversation as a Hart Trophy finalist with his torrid run over the last 3 months, has been able to do little against Lundqvist on Broadway. Not surprising, Giroux' last goal in New York came in the Flyers' last win there in 2011. Giroux did collect an assist on Voracek's power-play goal, but he has only four assists and no goals in his last eight games at the Garden.

All night, Giroux and the Flyers looked out of character. Rather than push the pace and control puck possession, the Flyers instead attempted to space themselves out to limit New York's ability to forecheck. They weren't crisp enough to make it all work.

With their second straight loss, the Flyers remained in third place in the Metropolitan Division - but lost a key mental edge heading into a possible playoff series against the Rangers. They still maintain two games in hand on New York, but now trail the Rangers by three points for home-ice advantage in a potential matchup.

Since the two wild-card teams are lagging behind the Flyers in both points and tiebreakers, the Rangers remain their most likely (75 percent) first-round opponent.

Last night was just the Flyers' second consecutive regulation loss since in 2 months - since Jan. 23-25.

On paper, the Flyers-Rangers season series ended knotted at two games. But when the final horn sounded last night, it sure felt as if the scales were tipped more heavily in New York's direction.

"I think we'd been playing well. Obviously, we didn't play well enough to win," Simmonds said. "We were too spread out, we weren't supporting each other. They do the same thing every time - they send three guys [forechecking]. We lose this one to New York, it's a big game, but we still control our own destiny. We've just got to see where that takes us."

Slap shots

Flyers assistant GM Ron Hextall was named to the same position for Hockey Canada's entry in the upcoming World Championships, where he will serve under Rob Blake. The tournament will take place May 9-25 in Minsk, Belarus . . . The Rangers were without Chris Kreider (hand), Dan Carcillo (flu) and John Moore (concussion) . . . The NHL's final 2012-13 revenue count came in yesterday: $2.24 billion. The NHL Players Association overpaid approximately $24 million in escrow payments, an average of $34,875 per player, which they will now receive back.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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