Flyers 5: Takeaways from Thursday’s Flyers-Rangers Game
The end result of Thursday’s game didn’t come easy for the Flyers, but then again, what has this season? In a year filled with so much inconsistency and unfulfilled expectations, the Flyers went into Madison Square Garden looking for a much better result than their last game there, the 9-0 massacre on St. Patrick’s Day.
If the Flyers took a beating on the scoreboard on that day, they literally took a beating in this game. At the center of it was James van Riemsdyk, who literally used his head to score a goal and helped the power play break through.
Between van Riemsdyk’s well-timed goals and Brian Elliott’s sharp performance, the Flyers got back in the win column, holding off the Rangers in the late stages of the third to secure the result.
Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s 3-2 Flyers win over the Rangers.
1. Standing Tall
The Flyers didn’t get on the board until the final five minutes of the second period. The game could have easily been out of hand if not for some stellar goaltending by Brian Elliott.
Literally from the first minute of the game, Elliott had to be on his game. Colin Blackwell moved in alone for a partial breakaway, and Elliott got his blocker on the shot.
Elliott also took a bit of a beating in the first period. While the Rangers were on a power play, Alexis Lafreniere went into Elliott’s pads and remained in the crease for several seconds. Tied up and unable to make a play, the Rangers hit the post with an attempt.
While the Rangers did score moments later, Elliott remained sharp through the remainder of the period. He made three outstanding stops late in the period. He got some help from the post on a nice move by Filip Chytil.
When things shifted to the second, again Elliott had to stop a wave of chances from the Rangers. In particular, he made two great stops on another Rangers power play. The best one came with the glove, as he reached out and robbed Artemi Panarin on a one-timer.
While the Flyers defense started to clamp down on opportunities from there, allowing just 10 shots in the third period, Elliott’s performance to that point is what gave the Flyers a chance.
2. No Pain, No Gain
Goals have been pretty hard to come by for the Flyers this month. Since taking a 3-2 lead against the Buffalo Sabres on April 11, a game they went on to lose, 5-3, the Flyers had scored just five goals in the four previous games and were nearly head off the board through the first two periods of this game.
On the fourth power play of the night, certainly an area that has struggled throughout the season, the Flyers finally got a goal the hard way. Just ask James van Riemsdyk.
Travis Konecny’s shot deflected off a stick and rose into van Riemsdyk’s face, right around his jaw, and bounced down into the crease behind Igor Shesterkin and into the net. It was van Riemsdyk’s 15th goal of the season and eighth power-play goal.
At the time, van Riemsdyk might not have realized in the moment that he had even scored. He crumbled to the ice, eventually getting up and skating off for repairs. It sure seemed like his night was over, but after getting negative x-rays, adding a half-cage to his helmet, and patching everything else up, van Riemsdyk was back on the ice.
3. Returning with a Vengeance
As if it wasn’t remarkable enough that van Riemsdyk returned to the game, he was right in the middle of the next Flyers goal midway through the third period.
It was evident that the Flyers getting a four-minute power play on K’Andre Miller’s high-sticking double-minor could easily be the turning point in the game. This was the Flyers best opportunity to get in front.
After an underwhelming start to the double-minor, the second half produced the go-ahead goal. It was another deflection by van Riemsdyk, this time in a much more conventional way.
To watch van Riemsdyk, battered and wearing the half-cage, score the go-ahead goal, it was perfectly fitting. The Flyers needed to show some guts and grit. They got it from one of their veteran players who has certainly given them just about everything that could be expected this season.
4. Adding Some Insurance
For a while, it seemed like van Riemsdyk’s second goal of the game would stand to be the game-winner. One area where the Flyers have certainly not fared as well is cashing in on transition rushes.
Last season, it seemed like this was exactly how the Flyers would outlast teams. In the third period, sometimes earlier than that, the Flyers would find a way to create a turnover, get an odd-man rush, then go in and bury the opportunity. This season, that has rarely happened.
The Flyers even had one of those opportunities earlier in the game. Joel Farabee got a breakaway with under a minute to play in the second, was taken down and awarded a penalty shot. He attempted to make a move, but ultimately was left with no room to do anything, resulting in an easy save for Shesterkin.
So when the Flyers got an odd-man rush with just under six minutes to play, Jake Voracek made sure to take care of business. While everyone was expecting the pass, and Claude Giroux there as a decoy, Voracek went top shelf instead, giving the Flyers an important insurance goal with 5:53 left in regulation.
5. Surviving the Final Moments
As mentioned earlier, nothing has come easy for the Flyers this season. So when the Rangers finally got Shesterkin to the bench for the extra-attacker with 2:04 left with an offensive-zone face-off coming, it felt like the Flyers were finally closing in on a multi-goal victory, something they have not had since Feb. 28.
But since nothing comes easy, Panarin got his goal after all and scored on a one-timer right off the face-off. That left the Flyers with a two-minute sprint to the finish to secure the victory.
The Rangers, starting to hang on for dear life in the playoff race as well, made their push, but couldn't manage the equalizer.
It set the stage for one more meeting between these two teams this season set to come on Friday night.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.