First blood — literally and figuratively — goes to the Rangers.
Brad Richards and Derek Stepan scored power-play goals 47 seconds apart to lead the Rangers to a 4-1 win over the Flyers in Game 1 of the Metropolitan Division semifinal series at the Garden.
Mats Zuccarello and Carl Hagelin also scored for the Rangers, who outshot the Flyers, 36-15. Nine Rangers finished with at least one point, led by Richards who had a three-point effort. Martin St. Louis had two points.
Henrik Lundqvist made 14 saves.
“We’re really happy with the result,” St. Louis said. “For us we’re trying to earn it every day. That’s the main thing and that’s what we focus on. If we do that, we give ourselves a good chance.”
Andrew MacDonald scored the Flyers’ lone goal. Ray Emery allowed all four goals, and the possibility exists he may be replaced by Steve Mason for Game 2. After the Flyers’ morning skate, Flyers head coach Craig Berube said Mason, the usual starter, will travel to New York Friday to join the team. He will not skate with the Flyers, and Berube did not tip his hand when he was asked directly if Mason would be available for Game 2.
Mason hasn’t played since suffering an injury in the second period following a collision with MacDonald and Pittsburgh’s Jayson Menga in the Flyers’ 4-3 overtime win over the Penguins last Saturday.
Deadlocked 1-1 midway through the third period, Jason Akeson was assessed a double minor for high-sticking Carl Hagelin, when the Flyers right wing’s stick opened a cut on the Rangers left wing’s upper lip. Richards (8:22) and Stepan (9:09) scored on the ensuing 4:00 power play to turn a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 lead.
The Rangers were 2-for-6 on the power play, and killed off the Flyers’ lone man advantage.
“He got me pretty good but I’ll take that,” Hagelin said, who scored his first of the playoffs with 4:08 left to end the scoring. “We got [a] four-[minute] power play and we did a great job scoring on our chances. We got out there and you could see the [power-play] guys were on a mission. Getting that quick goal by [Richards] really helped our confidence and getting another right after was key.”
Despite significant territorial and shot advantages, the Rangers entered the third tied 1-1 with the Flyers. MacDonald opened the scoring 7:28 into the series with a slap shot that eluded Lundqvist, and Zuccarello tied the game three and a half minutes later. With Emery and Kimmo Timonen tied up with Derick Brassard, Zuccarello snuck in and lifted a backhander to draw the Rangers even.
Lundqvist wasn’t tested very often in the opening 40 minutes, as he faced 14 shots. His toughest occurred with 8:50 remaining in the second period as he made a sprawling save on Matt Read.
“It was a different game,” Lundqvist said. “You have to stay ready, you try to stay ready. They had a couple chances in the first and second, and then in the third we played a really controlled game and did a lot of good things out there.”
Most notably, the Rangers neutralized the Flyers’ top line. Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek were limited to two shots on goal and eight attempted shots.
“Whoever we are out there against, we try to play our game,” Brian Boyle said of the fourth-line matchup against Philly’s top line in the defensive end of the ice. “We’re aware of when they’re out there, who they are as players and as a line. Just kind of the way the game fell into place, we were out there after goals and they sent Giroux’s line out. We tried to hold them in check.”
The Rangers have now won nine straight at the Garden against the Flyers dating back to March 6, 2011. The playoff win was the Rangers first at the Garden against the Flyers since Game 4 of the Patrick Division semifinal series on April 12, 1987.
Game 2 is set for noon Sunday at the Garden.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.