Against an opponent that demanded contributions from all, it was the trio of Derek Dorsett, Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore that stood tallest.
The fourth line tallied three points in the Rangers’ 3-1 win over the Flyers Thursday night at the Garden.
The longtime rivals split the four-game season series, 2-2-0.
“I’m a little biased, [but] I think our fourth line is one of the best in the league,” Derek Stepan said of the line which had two goals, an assist and a collective plus-5 rating. “Moving forward, we’re going to need them and they’re going to be a big part of us having success down the stretch.”
The Rangers have won a season-high five in a row and extended their lead to three points over the Flyers for second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers have eight games remaining this season, but the Flyers hold two games in hand.
The Rangers have a six-point lead over Columbus, Detroit, Washington and Toronto.
“You want to keep separating yourself,” Dorsett said. “Everyone’s desperate for points and trying to solidify a spot in the playoffs. I think we’ve been doing a good job as of late.”
Dorsett, Moore and Ryan McDonagh scored for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist was routinely brilliant in making 30 saves.
The Rangers went into the third period with a 2-0 lead despite having been outshot 25-23. Dorsett opened the scoring 8:41 into the match and McDonagh increased the lead to 2-0 at 5:44 in the second with a spectacular individual effort. The Rangers’ top defenseman kept a loose puck in at the blue line and carried it into the offensive zone before firing a shot from the right face-off circle that beat Steve Mason (26 saves) high.
Enter Lundqvist, who stymied the Flyers until Jakub Voracek scored with 1:53 left. Lundqvist’s best save of the night was a pad stop on Adam Hall from the top of the crease to prevent a sure goal which would cut the Rangers lead to 2-1.
“For any team to win, you need your top players playing at a high level,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said of Lundqvist and McDonagh. Lundqvist improved to 30-22-4 this season, while McDonagh has 13 points (six goals and seven assists) in his last 13 games, including seven points in his last five games.
“Hank’s found his game; he’s playing at an extremely high level,” Vigneault said. “Ryan McDonagh has been a force out there. He’s got to be getting consideration for the Norris [Trophy], the way he’s playing offensively and defensively. Playing against the top line, he’s defending extremely well. When he gets the opportunity to go on the offense, like tonight, he does. He’s been, obviously, one of our best players this year.”
Moore’s seeing-eye goal 7:39 into the third period eliminated any pretense of drama. Dorsett’s forecheck forced Michael Raffl into a turnover, that Kevin Klein fired on net. Moore tipped the shot which rolled under Mason’s legs and across the goal line.
“We have good speed on all four lines. We try to get in and pressure the puck and pressure the play. That’s our game,” Moore said. “We have to stick to that and that starts in our zone, supporting each other and moving zone to zone and continuing to work down low.
“You have to have [four lines playing well]; you can’t win without that. You see every game, every night, it’s usually one-goal games. Tonight [that] wasn’t the case but everyone has to chip in and everyone has to be firing on all cylinders.”
The Rangers played without left wing Chris Kreider, who it is believed suffered a broken hand in last Friday’s 3-1 win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus. He will not join the game on its upcoming four-game road trip to Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Colorado.
Follow Rangers beat Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.