It may be one of hockey's most heated rivalries over the past 30 seasons, but it's been fairly one-sided over the last calendar year. That trend continued Sunday afternoon in the Big Apple.
The New York Rangers continued their dominance of the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday afternoon with a convincing 5-2 victory at Madison Square Garden. It was the Broadway Blueshirts' fourth win over their arch rivals in as many tries this season, and sixth in a row dating back to late last season.
After an early first period Artem Anisimov redirection of a Dan Girardi shot gave the home team the lead, Philly's Brayden Schenn knotted the score at 1-1 on a breakaway midway through the second stanza.
Leading scorer Marian Gaborik had just gotten crushed by Andrej Meszaros behind the Philadelphia net and was slow to get up in the waning seconds, but Derek Stepan got the puck back to him. With time running out and little in the way of options, a tightly-covered Gaborik skated out front and sent a weak backhander towards the Flyers net. Bryzgalov had his stick along the ice but as he reached out to poke the puck away, his twig actually acted as a ramp and deflected the shot up and under his arm. The puck trickled through Bryzgalov and into the cage for Gaborik's 26th goal of the season with just 5.1 seconds remaining, changing the entire complexion of the game.
It was really the first soft goal allowed by the Flyers netminder since the NHL All-Star break, but it wouldn't be his last on the afternoon as the Gaborik goal appeared to weigh heavily on his mind.
Wayne Simmonds got the goal back in the first minute of the third period, roofing a shot over Lundqvist for a power play goal just nine seconds after Brandon Dubinsky took a minor for delay of the game. It was Simmonds' 17th goal of the campaign, setting a personal career-high for the former Los Angeles King.
But the stalemate did not last for long.
With Philadelphia pressuring to take the lead, defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon turned the puck over to send the Rangers away on a rush of their own. Gaborik maintained possession along the left wing side into the Flyers' zone, then spotted Michael Del Zotto trailing the play. Gaborik hit him with a pass and Del Zotto's unscreened shot from the slot somehow found its way through Bryzgalov for his seventh of the year to stake New York to a 3-2 lead just 36 seconds after Simmonds had tied the contest.
Philadelphia did have opportunities to again even the score, but Lundqvist came up big. The slumping Dubinsky scored his sixth of the season and for just the second time in his last 11 games for an insurance marker, then ex-Flyer Ruslan Fedetenko hit the empty net with Bryzgalov pulled for an extra attacker to set the final margin of victory.
The contest featured four fights, three involving Philly's Tom Sestito, who earned a game misconduct for his efforts.
While Philadelphia dropped their second straight in a lost weekend, the Rangers improved to 4-0-1 in their last five.
They also are owners of some other rather impressive statistics; the Blueshirts are now 28-0-2 when scoring three goals or more in a game this year, and are 20-0-2 when leading after two periods this season. Last year they were a perfect 29-0-0, so they have gone 49-0-2 in their last 51 contests when holding a lead at the second intermission.
Maybe most importantly for them is their continued mastery over the Flyers. The Rangers are 4-0-0 for the season against the Orange-and-Black, outscoring Philly by a 14-6 margin. New York is 6-0-0 versus the Flyers dating back to the final month of the 2010-11 regular season, scoring 23 goals and yielding just eight over that span.