They say revenge is a dish best served cold and if that’s the case, the loss the Flyers handed the New York Rangers on Thursday night must have been below zero.
After suffering a 9-0 loss at Madison Square Garden back on March 17 – their worst loss to the New Yorkers in their 54-year history – the Flyers no doubt had some atonement in mind.
They patiently waited more than a month, than coolly defeated the Rangers at MSG by a 3-2 count.
While there is still another game to be played between these two teams on Friday night on the same ice surface, the Flyers let it be known they aren’t going to lie down just because they’re 11 points out of a playoff spot with only 10 games to play.
The two main protagonists to this payback were James van Riemsdyk, who scored a pair of power-play goals, the first of which deflected off his face and into the Ranger net to tie the score at 1-1 at 15:56 of the second period.
The other was goalie Brian Elliott.
JVR went into the Flyers’ locker room, got an X-ray on his jaw, got fitted for some plastic face protection, came back for the third period and scored his second goal at 10:29, this one more conventionally on a deflection off his stick rather than the side of his head.
Jake Voracek made it 3-1 with 5:53 to play which was big because the Rangers scored with exactly two minutes left to keep it close.
Elliott was brilliant, turning aside time and again Ranger sharpshooters Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad along with other snipers.
The Flyers didn’t gain any ground in the standings because Boston beat Buffalo but at least they left the building with their heads high.
However, the fifth-place Rangers did lose ground in the race, dropping to eight points behind Boston with the Bruins holding a game in hand.
This situation was unlike another bad loss (8-3) to the Rangers on March 25 in Philadelphia, where the Flyers had to wait only two days to settle the score when Samuel Morin scored in overtime for a 2-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center.
Elliott didn’t want to come right out and say those lopsided defeats inspired some extra motivation but it sure looked like the Flyers were celebrating their goals a bit more than usual.
“We don’t want to be behind in any season series,’’ Elliott simply stated. “There’s no give-up from our group. Tomorrow is another big test, we just got to respond the right way, come back with another gutsy effort.’’
The Flyers’ No. 3 goalie, Alex Lyon, will start that game, according to coach Alain Vigneault.
Meanwhile, van Riemsdyk has suddenly heated up again after enduring a career-high 17-game goal drought.
JVR said there was never a thought of calling it a night after the X-rays came back negative.
Elliott said van Riemsdyk’s return was inspirational.
“It was big,’’ Elliott said. “When he came back, he scored again. Sometimes that’s what it takes. He’s a veteran guy who’s been around for a long time.
“Getting one off the face, I’m sure it’s a little bit easier, once it goes in, to come back than if it wasn’t going in. He was a huge part of the win today.’’
For van Riemsdyk, it was just another day at the office. When you play more than 10 years in front of NHL nets, some bad things are bound to happen.
Travis Konecny took the initial shot. The puck hit Ranger defenseman K’Andre Miller’s stick and then caught van Riemsdyk flush before bouncing to the net and sliding across the goal line.
“Ultimately, that’s part of the job for me,’’ he acknowledged. “I’ve been pretty lucky for the most part of my career where I haven’t taken pucks up high like that. You want to get out there and help the team if you can.’’
Van Riemsdyk said it was more the shock of getting struck off-guard that shook him up the most.
“I’m just happy it was all good,’’ he said, “and I was able to come back.’’
As for Vigneault, he mentioned the other day he was going to find out something about his players, now that the incentive of a possible playoff berth has been greatly diminished.
He had to like what he saw, starting with van Riemsdyk.
“There’s no doubt that him coming back helped us,’’ Vigneault said. “Very positive for us.’’
>Gostisbehere moves up in record book
Shayne Gostisbehere recorded an assist on the Voracek goal, giving him his 215th NHL point to move past Behn Wilson into fifth place on the Flyers’ alltime defense scoring list.
>Three-day break proved helpful
The Flyers were coming off their first three-day break of the season. It gave them a chance to practice back-to-back days and it showed in this performance.
“It didn’t show early on; there was one guy who was sharp and that was ‘Moose’ (Elliott),’’ Vigneault said. “He was excellent, made a couple big saves, we made a couple questionable decisions with the puck. He permitted us to find our execution.’’
Things got better as the game progressed.
“It was our execution,’’ Vigneault said. “Our play with the puck. There are some plays in front of you that you need to make. Whether that be a chip behind the ‘D’ or a pass tape to tape. That team, when you don’t make them turn, or make them go 200 feet, they’ve got a tremendous amount of speed. They’ll hurt you.’’
>Another good effort by Allison
Rookie Wade Allison again saw power-play time and nearly scored the second goal of his brief career when he barely misfired on a close-range shot.
Allison had three shots and two hits over 18 shifts and more than 14 minutes of ice time.
>By the numbers
Van Riemsdyk recorded the third two-PPG game of his career and his second of the season. . .Ivan Provorov recorded two assists and had five shots on goal. . .Sean Couturier had an assist and led the Flyers in ice time at 23:21, his second-highest total of the season. . .Joel Farabee misfired on a penalty shot. He’s 0 for 2 in his career.
If only we had a good coach that had the stones to play Elliott on back to back nights! Hart will be back for Sunday’s game.