To outplay the other team and still lose is frustrating. It's particularly frustrating when that loss comes courtesy of a shootout.
The Flyers took it to the Rangers through 65 minutes of play on Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center, but once the game went into a shootout, the game's outcome seemed predetermined. A goal from Mats Zuccarello proved to be the only tally of the skills competition, as Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped Shayne Gostisbehere, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek to preserve a 3-2 victory over the Flyers. Lundqvist was the hero of the game, making 34 big saves. Philadelphia goalie Steve Mason stopped 29 of 31 shots and picked up the loss.
From the start, the Flyers' transition game was moving at warp speed, the result of crisp passing from defensemen-to-forwards and a totally ineffective forecheck from the Rangers. So it wasn't a surprise when Philadelphia struck first, with Brayden Schenn beating Henrik Lundqvist in front courtesy of a cross-ice pass from Sean Couturier. It was Schenn's tenth goal of the season.
Philadelphia kept the pressure on through the remainder of the period, and were the better team at even strength by far. But they could not avoid the penalty box, and the Rangers were able to capitalize with four minutes remaining in the first. The Flyers' struggling shorthanded units were able to kill off a Jakub Voracek hooking penalty and the majority of a Michael Raffl interference call, but with time running down in the latter penalty, J.T. Miller streaked down the left wing and fooled Mason to tie the score at 1-1. As a result, the Flyers were forced to enter the locker room with a moral victory rather than an actual lead.
The second period proved to be more of the same - Flyers carrying play, but the Rangers getting the better results. Philadelphia outshot New York 11-4, and generated nine high-danger scoring chances to only two for the Rangers. But all it took was one mistake from the blueline pair of Evgeny Medvedev and Shayne Gostisbehere to give New York their first lead of the game. After failing to disrupt a play at their own blueline, Rick Nash carried the puck wide on Gostisbehere and then flipped a pass to Chris Kreider, who was driving the net and had blasted past the flat-footed Medvedev. Mason nearly made an acrobatic save, but he could not quite slide over in time as the Rangers jumped in front 2-1.
Following the goal, the Flyers continued to push play in the right direction, but were victimized by missed and blocked shots (15 in the period). Still, a late push gave the Flyers hope, especially after Gostisbehere and Couturier generated two consecutive breakaways on one shift. Lundqvist was up to the task, however, giving Philadelphia only twenty minutes to retake control of the contest.
In the third period, Philadelphia was finally rewarded, but it took over ten minutes before their hard work would pay off. Their early efforts in the period were stymied by the ever-present Lundqvist, who was able to ensure that the Flyers' numerous shots from the point and the outside did not create any dangerous rebounds. A Derek Stepan high-sticking penalty gave Philadelphia the chance to go to the power play, and Wayne Simmonds was determined to not let it go to waste. A tic-tac-toe passing play gave Simmonds a look at a wide open net right in the crease, and he did not let the opportunity slip past him.
The final nine minutes of regulation felt far more like a classic Flyers-Rangers game - end-to-end play, big saves from both goaltenders, and mean hits galore. Philadelphia was unable to impose their will to the degree that they had through the first 51 minutes of play, and the evenly-matched play resulted in three-on-three overtime. They were back to business in the extra session, however, controlling the puck for almost the entire second half of the overtime. Gostisbehere and Matt Read in particular put heavy pressure on Lundqvist, but the Rangers' elite goaltender refused to yield and singlehandedly forced the Flyers' kryptonite, the shootout.
Comment of the Night:
Let’s all join hands and pray to the Gods of Hockey
To show us some more fortunate bounces in and around the Lundqvist area
and to deny any further scoring for the Rangers.
For this we pray in the name of the Hextall, the Hakstol, and the holy Ghost. Amen.