PHILADELPHIA - This wasn't a huge letdown game, the sort of day in which the Rangers get nothing going and kick themselves for it afterward.
Their 4-1 loss to the Flyers Saturday was a day of missed opportunities. The Rangers, who had entered with a three-game winning streak, were outshot 39-25 but had numerous chances to get themselves back in the game and rally from a third-period deficit for the third straight game. But they failed to finish what they generated and the Flyers, who won their fifth straight, did not.
"I thought we played a pretty good game," said Henrik Lundqvist, who was sharp with 35 saves. "We made a few mistakes and they took advantage."
The biggest mistakes led directly to Flyer goals. At the tail end of a power play in the second period, Brian Boyle fanned on a pass back to the point. Flyers captain Mike Richards grabbed the puck and spun a 120-foot pass right on Nikolay Zherdev's tape as the mercurial former Ranger came out of the penalty box. His breakaway backhander opened the scoring 9:06 into the second.
"I thought that was the biggest goal of the game," John Tortorella said. "We had the puck. Brian just whiffed on the pass."
Michael Del Zotto (minus-3), who struggled along with defensive partner Michal Rozsival, lost the puck after Erik Christensen won a defensive-zone faceoff and Andreas Nodl found a ton of room to redirect Claude Giroux's pass 3:19 into the third for a two-goal lead.
Derek Stepan cut the deficit to 2-1 with 11:37 to go, but after a Flyers timeout and another good scoring chance that didn't even lead to a shot - Brandon Prust and Boyle missed connection on a two-on-one below the hash marks in the Flyers' zone - Philadelphia salted away the game when Ville Leino tipped Kimmo Timonen's shot in just 94 seconds after Stepan's goal.
This was a big seven days for the Rangers, who drubbed the Capitals a week ago, rallied to beat the Penguins and Coyotes on consecutive nights and tried to cap it with another win over a top Eastern Conference foe.
"We know we can play with any team in the league, and we had our chances against this team, too," Prust said. "We just couldn't put the puck in the net. We can still take some positives from this and move on."
The Rangers don't play again for four days and have only two games in the next nine days with the league-wide two-day holiday break after Thursday's game with the Lightning.
That's time for the Rangers to work on the flaws in their game, of which there still are several. For much of the first 30 minutes Saturday, the Rangers were stuck in neutral, unable to stick to a physical, dump-and-chase game needed against a Flyers team that was playing without Chris Pronger.
"We didn't take care of the puck the way we'd like over the first couple periods," said Stepan, who has goals in consecutive games. "If you want to win, you've got to have consistency."
The Rangers don't have that yet, but they grabbed a hold of something this past week, something more positive than they had earlier this season. Not even a disheartening loss Saturday could dampen that.