It was Rangers-Flyers at Madison Square Garden. This, however, was Feb. 18, 1968. The Rangers won their first game in their sparkling new home.
The two teams were back at MSG on Feb. 18, 2018, but Sunday didn’t turn out to be a happy 50th anniversary for the Rangers. These aren’t happy days.
The Rangers’ slide continues. They allowed seven goals one day after giving up six. Travis Konecny and Claude Giroux each contributed a goal and two assists in Philadelphia’s 7-4 win.
“This is definitely not a pleasant time for us,” coach Alain Vig neault said. “But you have to keep doing your jobs, both players and coaches, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Rangers have lost four in a row, 11 of 14 and 15 of 21 to drop to 27-28-5, the only team below .500 in the Metropolitan Division. Six players are out with injuries and the wait is on for several veterans to be shipped out by the Feb. 26 trade deadline as the team begins a rebuilding process.
Other than that, everything is fine.
Henrik Lundqvist wore the frustration on his face after finishing one shy of matching his career high for goals allowed. He yielded 12 of the 13 goals to the Flyers and Ottawa Senators in weekend losses, though not all were his fault.
“It’s terrible, absolutely terrible,” he said. “You live for this. It means so much to all of us.”
The 1968 game ended with a 3-1 Rangers win. This time it was 3-3 after one. Nolan Patrick beat Lundqvist on a rebound with 2:01 gone in the second to give the Flyers the lead.
“We have to be tougher in front of our net,” Mats Zuccarello said.
Peter Holland made it 4-4 with his first Rangers goal, scoring from the left doorstep at 5:47 against rookie Alex Lyon, who came on for the start of the period because Michal Neuvirth had a lower-body injury.
Philadelphia, however, beat Lundqvist for the fifth time with 4:20 remaining in the second on Konecny’s hard wrist shot from the left circle.
“I’ve got to be better,” Lundqvist said. “Obviously, there are a lot of mistakes. We’re getting deflections in our own net. They’re getting deflections in our net. Odd-man rushes. That’s where we’re getting hurt right now. You try to convince yourself you’re doing the right things out there, but it’s hard when you give up so many goals to stay confident and make that extra save.”
Vigneault said the Rangers, who played their fifth game in eight days, “were running on fumes” in the third. Giroux and Jori Lehtera each tacked on a goal for the third-place Flyers, nailing down Lyon’s first NHL win.
“It was good, fun building, great atmosphere, and can’t give enough credit to the guys,” Lyon said. “They played really well.”
The goals and the fists were flying in the first period with the six scores and three fights. Kevin Hayes converted on a deflection 1:30 in, but the Flyers’ Andrew MacDonald countered 3:23 later.
Rick Nash gave the Rangers the lead on a rebound, but Scott Laughton tied it on a deflection. Then Brandon Manning gave Philadelphia the lead before Zuccarello tied it.
“We’re giving up easy goals and playing dumb and getting beat up the ice,” Zuccarello said. “We’ve got to be better than that.”
Notes & quotes: Goalie Brandon Halverson was summoned Friday from Hartford and made his NHL debut in the third period Saturday in Ottawa because backup Alexandar Georgiev was out with the flu. Georgiev was available Sunday, so Halverson was sent down.