The Rangers' home streak against the Flyers continues, and it couldn't have come at a worse time for Philadelphia.
With power-play goals by Brad Richards and Derek Stepan 47 seconds apart in the third period Thursday night, the Rangers decked the Flyers for the ninth consecutive time at Madison Square Garden, 4-1.
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But this one counted more than the others.
The goals, which cracked open a 1-1 game in which the Rangers controlled play but could not dent backup goaltender Ray Emery more than once through the first two periods, propelled the Blueshirts to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Metropolitan Division semifinal series. Game 2 is Sunday at the Garden.
The importance of the victory, which included a 36-15 edge in shots, cannot be understated. The Rangers made the visitors pay for their lack of discipline, and that could force the Flyers to play more cautiously. And the Rangers are 21-6 in playoff series in which they win the opening game at home.
The momentum ramped up for them when Flyers rookie Jason Akeson fell while checking Carl Hagelin, his stick cut Hagelin's lip and the Rangers were awarded a four-minute man-advantage at 7:35 of the third.
"You could see they were on a mission," Hagelin said. "That goal by Richie really helped our confidence, and we got another right after."
Richards, who had a goal and two assists, had the game-winner at 8:22. Martin St. Louis' shot glanced off Kimmo Timonen's skate and went right to Richards, who ripped a shot past Emery from the right circle. Richards and St. Louis, who was playing his first playoff game as a Ranger, then worked the puck to Stepan at the left post at 9:09. Hagelin finished the Flyers off with 4:08 left. The shots were 13-1 Rangers in the third period.
The Rangers used speed to create rushes from the neutral zone and to keep the puck in the defensive zone, as the Flyers couldn't generate any forechecking. "They just pound it back in our end . . . I didn't feel we skated well enough at all," Flyers coach Craig Berube said.
"We controlled the game," said Mats Zuccarello, who darted for his own rebound and backhanded it past Emery at 10:53 of the first period to tie it at 1.
The Rangers outshot the Flyers 14-6 in the first period but came away with a 1-1 tie. Scott Hartnell flattened Ryan McDonagh on the forecheck down low and former Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald cranked a slap shot that deflected off the stick of St. Louis and off Henrik Lundqvist's arm for a 1-0 lead at 7:28.
"Everyone had the feeling it was going to come if we kept playing the same way," Zuccarello said.
In the second period, the Rangers were all over the Flyers, but they mostly settled for long shots that were handled by Emery, subbing for the injured Steve Mason. The best chance came at 5:30 when Derick Brassard's wrister from the right circle beat Emery on the stick side and clanged the post.
The rugged play -- and the chirping and jabbing -- continued. The Flyers were credited with 37 hits, the Rangers 32.
In the previous four regular- season games, the team that had scored first won. But after Zuccarello's goal, the Rangers kept pressing.
"One [power-play] goal was huge," Richards said, "but to be able to go back out there and get the other one, that won us the game."