Rangers blow early two-goal lead, allow Flyers to even series

The Rangers look to bounce back in Philadelphia for Game 3 Tuesday after losing to the Flyers, 4-2 on April 20, 2014 at the Garden in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series. (Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware)

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The Philadelphia Flyers raised their level of play in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers didn't.

After watching the Blueshirts take an early two-goal lead, the Flyers scored four straight goals and tied the best-of-seven series at a game each with a 4-2 win.

After Martin St. Louis and Benoit Pouliot gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead, they failed to cash in on power plays and some point-blank shots on Flyers goaltender Ray Emery.

"By no means did we think this was going to be an easy series," said St. Louis, who opened the scoring with his first playoff goal as a Ranger at 4:08 of the first period. "We knew they were going to be better after Game 1, and they were. We did a good job generating some chances, but we have to find the back of the net."

Game 3 is in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

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After Pouliot scored on a power play at 8:22 of the first period, the Flyers -- who hadn't won at the Garden in nine games and hadn't scored more than two goals in any of them -- kept pushing, and the Rangers swung and missed at a huge opportunity to grab a 2-0 lead in the series.

With a terrific individual effort, Jakub Voracek cut the lead in half. He drove down the right side past Ryan McDonagh and cut to the crease, and when Henrik Lundqvist (21 saves) missed a poke check, Voracek tucked the puck inside the far post.

That's the way the first period ended, with a 2-1 Rangers lead, but the Flyers gained some momentum and confidence, and the Rangers didn't get any bounces.

The Rangers came close to killing Anton Stralman's interference penalty at 3:48 of the second period, but rookie Jason Akeson -- whose four-minute minor penalty for high-sticking opened the gates for two goals in 47 seconds in the Blueshirts' 4-1 win Thursday night -- tied the score on a rebound with three seconds left on the power play.

"It goes off Kleiner [Kevin Klein] and Marc Staal and their guy has an open net. It's hockey," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We had some great looks [on the power play] in the second; next game, we've got to put those in."

The Rangers had 17 shots in the second, but Vigneault said "I thought we could've played better in the third" when, down 3-2, the Rangers managed only seven shots.

After Pouliot's tally, the Rangers had five more power-play opportunities but Emery, again subbing for the injured Steve Mason, made 31 saves.

"Emery made some big saves," Brad Richards said. "It could go either way on some of those situations."

Naturally, the game became chippier, with scrums and checks after whistles (15 penalties overall), but Emery, who made 32 saves Thursday, kept the Rangers at bay.

Luke Schenn's rebound goal on a delayed penalty at 11:18 of the second period gave the Flyers a 3-2 edge, their first lead since being ahead 1-0 early in Game 1. Wayne Simmonds added an empty-net goal with 26 seconds left in the third period.

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The win was "a huge weight off our shoulders," Schenn said. "To come here and get the split. Going home, we feel a little bit better about ourselves."

The Rangers, who lost both games at Wells Fargo Center during the season, were 25-14-2 on the road. Said Lundqvist, "We just have to regroup and stay confident and go to Philly and try to beat them there."

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