NEW YORK – The New York City Fire Department’s color guard was still walking off the ice, and the Rangers already had two goals.
The Flyers probably wish they’d have returned to try and extinguish the flaming-hot Rangers.
No such luck.
The Blueshirts (24-20-3) were on the board quickly Sunday night at the Garden when Daniel Carcillo – playing against his former team – scored on Ray Emery (31 saves) just 134 seconds in. Twenty-eight seconds later, the Flyers inexcusably left Rick Nash open in the slot, no defender anywhere close.
Just like that, it was 2-0. Just like that, it was game over. Just like that, the Rangers were on their way to their eighth win in 11 games (8-2-1).
“The way we started the game helped everyone in here,” said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (37 saves). “We got the crowd going, we got ourselves going. We talked about it going into this game, they played last night so we wanted to come out really hard and set the tone. The early goals really helped us.”
“You go into a road building and the [home] team comes out like that, it deflates your energy a little bit,” said defenseman Marc Staal. “We had a great start, and we were able to close it out.”
Craig Berube’s squad looked eerily similar to the outfit that got Peter Laviolette fired three games into his fifth season. It was a defensive effort that forced the first-year Flyers coach into calling his timeout 2:42 into the game.
“We’ve got to be more ready,” Berube said when his team’s 4-1 defeat was mercifully over. “We’ve got to be quick. We’ve got to be as quick because we knew they were going to come out hard. They’ve been playing good, and they’ve been playing quick. We weren’t ready – I don’t know if we weren’t ready, we just didn’t play fast in the first period. We were slow on everything, they had the puck, and we didn’t get it back.”
Things didn’t get much better after the timeout for the Flyers (23-19-4). Mats Zuccarello chased a puck into the corner, and fed Derick Brassard, who one-timed it past Emery at 9:24. It was Brassard’s third even-strength goal of the season and eighth overall.
“Right now, we’re scoring goals and everything is great,” Brassard said. “We’re just going to try to keep up. Like I said earlier, we’re having fun and that’s the main thing.”
Chris Kreider added to Philly’s misery in the second when he slotted home a backhand with Braydon Coburn standing in front of the crease, watching and doing nothing. The power play goal gave the Rangers man-advantage tallies in five straight games, their longest such streak since December, 2010.
“We’re just moving the puck around,” Brassard said of the Rangers’ white-hot power play. “We’re making plays. Sometimes when the power play’s not going well you’re looking for answers. Now it’s going well, so we’re just preparing ourselves before every game and we know what to expect.”
It was a dominating effort by the Rangers, who won their seventh straight meeting at the Garden, dating back to 2011. During the seven-game win streak, New York has outscored Philly 28-8.
“It’s always fun playing Philadelphia,” Staal said. “It’s always competitive, intense, and chippy. We always get up for playing them.”
“I kind of like these games,” Lundqvist said of the physicality the Flyers bring. “They’re a little more intense, you have to love that when you can feel the intensity in the building and on the ice, too. It’s always great games, they’re fun to play. I don’t mind that – even though it hurts sometimes.”
Perhaps most important for the Rangers is Lundqvist’s continued strong play. Making his seventh start in eight games, he was solid once again. In fact, since Alain Vigneault sat him for three straight games in late December, he’s 5-1-1.
“Hank is such a competitor, and since day one he’s been working real hard on his game and to get it to the level that he’s used to, and he’s gotten everybody used to,” Vigneault said before the game. “Right now, he’s back on track.”
“Last few weeks, I think I’m consistent in the way I play my game,” Lundqvist said after the victory. “Tonight, I got tested early, and you gain confidence when you make a couple good saves early on. I’m happy with the way I’m playing my game right now.”
Overall, the Rangers have won 12 of their last 15 meetings with the Flyers, outscoring them 53-27 over the span.
The Rangers are 19-2-1 when scoring the game’s first goal, 12-2-1 when leading after the first period, and 15-1-1 when leading after 40 minutes.
Kreider, officially still a rookie, leads the Rangers with 12 goals, including five tallies on the power play.
INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM: