Breaking curse could be uplifting for Flyers

Posted: April 23, 2014

ONLY FOUR Flyers remain from the group that endured a 7-0 humiliation in Madison Square Garden more than 3 years ago. It was a Sunday matinee, which Jeff Carter missed with the flu. Future Rangers captain Ryan Callahan netted four goals. Acting Flyers captain Mike Richards lost a fight, then lost his cool with reporters in the dressing room.

Henrik Lundqvist got the shutout.

The Flyers lost eight more in a row in MSG, including this season's playoff opener Thursday.

That's like the Eagles losing in Dallas for 8 straight years, plus one playoff game. Think about it.

Claude Giroux was, of course, held pointless in that 2011 game. Braydon Coburn was burned for the first goal.

On another Sunday, 2 days ago, Giroux and Coburn helped the Flyers end the MSG curse. For the first time in ages, they enjoyed the train ride back to Philadelphia, a 1-1 series tie in their laps and two games at the Wells Fargo Center to be played, tonight and Friday.

Maybe that's because they understand: Winning at the Garden might be the biggest hurdle the Flyers face this postseason.

Yes, the Lightning is imposing, but they're on the brink of elimination at the hands of the Canadiens. The Bruins have their hands full with Detroit. The Flyers have shown the capacity to beat every other team in the league . . . except New York, in New York.

"It relieves a little of the pressure, doesn't it?" Giroux said yesterday, still beaming more than 24 hours after their noontime resurrection.

"We know if we're going to take care of this series, we have to win some games up there in New York," Coburn said. "We've been trying to get our stuff together and win on the road up there."

They got their stuff together behind the steady head and powerful skating of Jake Voracek.

It was he who begged the bench to remain patient after the Rangers took a 2-0 lead midway through the first period Sunday.

"Panicking wasn't going to help anything," Voracek said yesterday.

It was he who took over 6 minutes later, skating through the Rangers' defense and shucking in a backhand as Lundqvist lunged to poke the puck away.

"I'm trying to make the difference when it comes to me," Voracek said. "That's fun."

Fun at the Garden: a foreign concept for the Flyers for 3 long years.

Asked about the trip south, Giroux explained, "It's very important after a game like that not to get too high or too low."

It was harder than usual to not get giddy.

The Flyers had wasted a strong effort Thursday with a careless penalty late that gave the Rangers the game. They were seeing the series slip away Sunday after the Rangers found some open ice, got Ray Emery, a backup playing in place of injured Steve Mason, scurrying side to side, and scored easily, twice.

But after Voracek's goal, the Flyers came to life.

Emery, who had allowed six goals in less than four periods, settled; "He's the reason we won," said Mason, who declared himself out for tonight's game, too.

They killed a 4-on-3 penalty.

They controlled the game in the third period, a bugaboo for more than a month. They finished checks in the Rangers' zone. It was that type of play, not the site, that most excited coach Craig Berube.

"I thought that we played our best third period in quite some time," he said.

The best news for the Flyers: They can get much, much better.

They have been shorthanded 12 times in two games, three times the Rangers' total. Some penalties are unavoidable, but others are born of petulance.

"They're pretty much calling everything," said Vinny Lecavalier. "Hooking, slashing, grabbing the jersey. We have to control our emotions."

They have only recently grasped the chip-and-chase technique that counters the Rangers' blue-line barrier.

"Some other teams give you the blue line," Voracek said. "The Rangers don't."

Mason could return. Emery is only 31, but he had to battle back from a career-threatening hip issue 4 years ago that relegated him to backup status since. He called himself a "Band-Aid" yesterday. Those only last so long.

Giroux could get some scoring chances. Since the Flyers have the last change at the Wells Fargo Center, Giroux generally will find himself freed of the shadow of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi, the Rangers' shutdown defensive pair. He has yet to record a shot in the series, an expected result.

The Rangers allowed him only four shots in four games this season, his second-lowest average output against any team (the Flames allowed one shot in two games).

Asked if he would be glad to be rid of McDonagh and Girardi, Giroux replied, "What do you think?" with a big grin.

There was a lot of grinning going on yesterday.

There was good reason.

It was an optional practice, and while some veterans like Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen opted out, plenty of others skated. Hartnell and Timonen are the other two Flyers who played in that 7-0 slaughter at MSG. Perhaps they were basking in their relief. It had been a long time.

Since the MSG curse began, the Flyers have been through three goalies (Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher, Ilya Brzygalov), a captain (Richards) and a coach (Peter Laviolette).

They were coming off a run to the Stanley Cup finals, but they didn't get past the conference semis the next two seasons and missed the playoffs last season.

Maybe all of that changes now.

Maybe all of that changed this past Sunday afternoon, at the site of another bloody Sunday 3 years before.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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