Just when it seemed the Rangers and Mika Zibanejad had taken complete ownership of the Philadelphia Flyers, the Orange and Black struck back on Saturday.
Zibanejad scored his seventh goal in his last three games against the Flyers in the first period, but Nolan Patrick’s goal in the second tied it and defenseman Samuel Morin scored his first NHL goal with 4:27 left to give the Flyers a 2-1 victory that ended the Rangers’ winning streak at three games.
In his previous two games against the Flyers, Zibanejad had recorded three goals and three assists in both the 8-3 win on Thursday and the 9-0 win on St. Patrick’s Day (when he had all six points in the second period).
"That was a hungry and desperate team, obviously,’’ he said. "They come out hot at the beginning, and I thought they were throwing pucks on net, they were spreading us [out]in our own zone . . . We didn’t do a good enough job to get the pucks behind them and try to work them. I mean, they were good today, and we didn’t really come up to our level of play.’’
The win gave the Flyers a split of the two-game series and put Philadelphia (16-13-4) back in front of the Rangers (15-14-4) and in sole possession of fifth place in the East Division.
With Boston rallying for a 3-2 win over hapless Buffalo, the Rangers fell five points behind the fourth-place Bruins in the chase for the final playoff spot in the division.
The Flyers began aggressively, pounding shots at Igor Shesterkin, who started his second consecutive game after coming back from a groin injury that kept him out for 10 games. The Flyers outshot the Rangers 17-8 in the first period, but Shesterkin (35 saves) was sharp.
"They came out hard,’’ Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba said. "I think their forecheck was pretty good, they were on the ‘D’ pretty hard . . . It was tough to really get a handle on the puck and make a good quality breakout.’’
The Flyers were outshooting the Rangers 11-2 when Travis Konecny took down Zibanejad at 9:29 of the opening period. Zibanejad made Konecny and the Flyers pay when he converted a sweet cross-ice pass from Ryan Strome to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 10:54.
The goal was Zibanejad’s eighth in the last six games and his 50th on the power play since becoming a Ranger in 2016. The assist extended Strome’s point-scoring streak to eight games. Adam Fox, who also earned an assist on the play, extended his assist/point streak to six games.
The Flyers tied it in the second period on a power-play goal by Patrick right after the Rangers killed off a five-on-three disadvantage for 1:17. Chris Kreider was serving a tripping penalty when Kevin Rooney also was sent off for tripping at 10:55.
With Zibanejad and defenseman Ryan Lindgren playing the entire time on the five-on-three, the Rangers killed it. But three seconds before the penalty to Rooney was to expire, Shayne Gostisbehere fired a long shot that Patrick tipped in at 12:52.
Rangers acting coach Kris Knoblauch said the Flyers, who are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and have been giving up goals by the bucketful, gained life from that goal.
"They were obviously very excited to score that goal where we’d been defending so well and Shesty playing so well in net,’’ Knoblauch said. "Once they get one by, it gave them a lot of energy.’’
Morin, who was fined the maximum $3,017.24 by the NHL on Friday for his hair-pulling act on Brendan Lemieux in Thursday’s game, then scored the winner.