PHILADELPHIA – Beating the teams you should be beating is the first order of business for any team with designs on the playoffs.
And so it was for the Flyers on Thursday night, as they faced a long-out-of-contention New York Rangers club at the Wells Fargo Center.
With points at a premium, the Flyers managed to chisel out a 4-3 win but, as expected, it wasn’t all that easy.
The Rangers played loose and easy and stayed with it for the entire game.
It took a strong goaltending effort by rookie Alex Lyon and a pair of goals from Travis Konecny to put away the Rangers.
The win gives the Flyers 88 points and moves them to within one point of idle second-place Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings.
The Flyers visit the Penguins, who have a game in hand, on Sunday afternoon.
Players acknowledged it isn’t easy playing an opponent who isn’t worried about losing and can play a wide-open style like the Rangers.
“The style they play, they stretch their wingers a lot for that lengthy outlet pass,’’ Andrew MacDonald said. “They try to catch you on a fast break, try to get odd-man rushes.
“It’s always difficult to play against those kinds of teams. They have a lot of skill over there, a lot of speed. They do a really good job of taking advantage of that.’’
It took some timely saves by Lyon to get the job done.
In 10 games, he’s now 4-2-1 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
“That was one of those games where I didn’t feel quite as crisp as I wanted to be,’’ said Lyon, who faced 36 shots, many from quality scoring areas. “I was still seeing it well. Some days, you just have to adjust and just keep the puck out of the net.
“Sometimes it’s about getting comfortable as quickly as possible. And just roll with the punches.’’
Lyon credited the Flyers’ team defense for keeping the Rangers outside down the stretch in the third period.
“I felt like I made a couple good saves but they (the defense) did such a good job keeping them to the outside,’’ Lyon said. “In the last three minutes of the game, when it came down to it, the guys were keeping the puck away from the net.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol appreciated Lyon’s effort.
“Down the stretch in the third period he made some saves that were real good saves,’’ Hakstol said. “There are some things we have to clean up but the bottom line is the two points at the end of the night. We move on.’’
Konecny’s second goal at 8:38 of the second period gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead. He tipped in a Radko Gudas shot past goaltender Alexandar Georgiev for his 22nd goal of the season.
The Rangers picked up a goal at 17:03 when Jesper Fast’s attempted pass hit Ivan Provorov’s skate and deflected past Lyon.
Jake Voracek scored the Flyers’ second goal with a solo rush at 3:46 of the second.
In the third, rookie Oskar Lindblom picked up his second goal in three games at the eight-second mark. But Fast scored off a rebound to cut the Flyers’ lead to 4-3.
With Florida’s loss at Columbus, the Flyers move seven points up on ninth-place Florida in the Eastern Conference standings. Florida has 10 games remaining, the Flyers seven.
The Flyers will take the points any way they can get them.
“There were some moments during the game when we played some good hockey,’’ Claude Giroux said. “They play with a lot of speed, they came at us pretty hard.
“But we did a good job of grinding it out. Obviously, ‘Lyon King’ did a good job. . .he was battling out there.’’
Defenseman Robert Hagg was a healthy scratch for the Flyers. Coach Dave Hakstol cited Hagg’s sub-par play in the shootout loss at Detroit on Tuesday night. Brandon Manning returned to the lineup. . .Giroux had three assists and moved to within five of Bill Barber (463) on the Flyers’ alltime list. Giroux now has 64 on the season, tops in the NHL. He became the first Flyer to record back-to-back three-assist games since Jake Voracek in 2016. . .Voracek refused to address the post-game media, a violation of NHL rules. It’s the third time he’s done so this season.