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Chris Kreider scores again as Rangers beat Flyers for fourth straight win

Chris Kreider #20 of the Rangers celebrates his

Chris Kreider #20 of the Rangers celebrates his second period goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

A halt in the schedule wasn’t enough to stop the Rangers’ momentum Wednesday — not against the struggling Philadelphia Flyers, anyway — as the Blueshirts opened a three-game homestand at Madison Square Garden with a 4-1 victory. They’ve won four straight, and eight of nine.

The victory was also the sixth straight at home for the Rangers, and lifted their overall record to 14-4-3 (they are two points behind division-leading Washington). The Flyers, who have lost seven straight, fell to 8-9-4.

The win wasn’t without drama, though, for the Rangers. They took a 3-0 lead when Chris Kreider scored his team-leading 16th goal just 34 seconds into the second period, and it looked as though the game might be a blowout, until a five-minute major power play gave the Flyers life. The Rangers needed their penalty-killers — and goalie Igor Shesterkin (33 saves) — to come up big in what could have been a pivotal point in the game, and they did.

"We played great until that five-minute major, then we hung on after that,’’ Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. "We weren’t the same team [after that]. We lost the momentum. We couldn’t get it back. But we did a great job killing the penalty. Didn’t give them a whole lot, but Shesty made some great saves on that five-minute major, for sure.’’

The Flyers got the power play when Dryden Hunt was sent off after checking Philadelphia’s Justin Braun into the glass. He was given a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct at 1:56 of the second period. But Shesterkin made seven saves on the power play, and the Rangers’ penalty killers worked hard to frustrate the Flyers and kill the penalty.

"The guys worked really, really well and they blocked a lot of shots, and made a lot of smart moves,’’ Shesterkin said, through an interpreter. "Honestly, seven saves in five minutes isn’t that much.’’

The Flyers did gain momentum after that power play, and ended up outshooting the Rangers 16-5 in the second period. But Morgan Frost’s first goal of the season, at 9:37 of the period, was all they could muster. That pulled them to within 3-1, but they got nothing else, and Artemi Panarin’s empty-net goal, at 19:16, closed up the scoresheet.

With Sunday’s Islanders game having been postponed, it had been four days between games for the Rangers, since their 5-2 win over the Bruins in Boston on Friday. But, facing the reeling Flyers, it didn’t seem to have had any kind of negative effect on them, at least not at the start.

Jacob Trouba blasted home a shot from the point on the power play to get the Rangers on the board at 3:41 of the first period. The goal was the first of the season from the Rangers’ second power-play unit, which gets a lot less time than the first unit.

Hunt, playing his third game up on the first line, with Panarin and Ryan Strome, scored to make it 2-0 at 9:32.

It was the second straight game with a goal for Hunt, who had spent most of the season on the fourth line before being promoted to play with Panarin and Strome.

The Flyers got a break when Kevin Rooney’s apparent tap-in goal with 2:58 left in the first period was disallowed after the linesman ruled that the Rangers were offside entering the zone.

But Kreider made it 3-0 when he banged in a pass from Kaapo Kakko (two assists), after Trouba stole a poor clearing attempt by the Flyers and sent the puck to Mika Zibanejad on the left wing. Zibanejad sent it to Kakko below the right circle and Kakko relayed it to Kreider in the slot for the goal. The assist for Zibanejad was his 300th point as a Ranger.

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