Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
The Rangers beat the Flyers in a key game Tuesday. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 29 shots, while holding the Orange and Black to two goals or less for the 12th time in the last 13 meetings. Afterwards the Flyers insisted they aren’t intimidated by their Atlantic Division rivals and don’t believe the Rangers are in their heads.
At the same time, following last night’s depressing 5-2 loss that dropped them seven points behind the Rangers for the East’s final playoff spot with just 16 games to play, several Flyers admitted they hadn’t come out ready to play. That’s mind-boggling, considering the stakes for a team which should’ve been desperate if it legitimately hopes to make the playoffs.
Instead, the Flyers dug a 3-0 hole for themselves in the first 26 minutes on the first of Rick Nash’s two goals, followed by Brad Richards and Derek Stepan goals 2:34 apart in the second.
"It’s disappointing,’’ said captain Claude Giroux, after the Flyers battled back within 3-2 early in the third on a couple of freakish goals by Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek, before defensive breakdowns led to goals by Nash and Chris Kreider to put it away. "It’s a big game. We need to find a way to be ready for those kinds of games."
Ironically, ever since the day Giroux beat Lundqvist in that infamous shootout that sent the Flyers into the 2010 playoffs – and eventually all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals – while the Rangers went home, Lundqvist & Co. have been making them pay.
"We win tonight, we’re three points behind the Rangers,’’ said goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who wasn’t as sharp as needed, though he didn’t get much support. "But now we’re seven points behind. To be honest, I don’t have an answer. I can’t say we’re nervous. They always just find a way to beat us. I don’t know why the reason, but they always find a way.’’
Three of four this year, after going 6-0 last season, in fact.
"We’re here to win hockey games and that was horrible,’’ admitted Kimmo Timonen, who was honored before the game for recently playing in his 1,000th NHL game. "We have to find a better effort across the board. It comes down to one-on-one battles and we didn’t win many of them today. It was all Rangers. They were hungrier and a better team tonight.’’
Yet with still 1/3 of the season to play they keep insisting there’s hope.
"There’s nowhere to go except to the rink tomorrow for practice, and to get ready for the next game,’’ said coach Peter Laviolette, with the Islanders, Bruins, Caps and Canadiens all coming here within the next week. "Regardless of how the night went, the season’s not over. We need to win hockey games; the objective remains the same. Tonight we didn’t give ourselves an opportunity to do that.’’
Of course, against the Rangers that seems to always be the case. Unfortunately during this 13-17-2 season, that aspiration seems doomed to everyone but themselves. The Flyers seem to play that way against nearly everyone.