PHILADELPHIA -- Even a blizzard that ripped through the City of Brotherly Love wasn't enough to deny New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist from delivering yet another masterful performance at Wachovia Center against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Lundqvist, who entered Saturday's clash winning six of his last seven starts against the Flyers in Philadelphia, was at it again when he turned aside 36 shots this time around in leading the Rangers to a 2-1 triumph.
"We're struggling a little bit in our end zone right now but that's something we'll have to continue to work through and Hank simply has to be Hank," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We have a club here with some young guys in the back end; there's going to be some mistakes and we just need Hank to be himself while we find our way as a hockey club."
The impenetrable Lundqvist, who was making his ninth straight start, was particularly sharp in the third when his team was clinging to that one-goal lead, stopping all 16 shots sent in his direction.
His electrifying exhibition in the final stanza was highlighted by a right-pad save off the stick of rookie James van Riemsdyk on a rebound 8:03 into the third. He also had an early denial of Jeff Carter from between the circles one minute into the final period before stopping Arron Asham's blast from the left circle at the 5:47 mark with a nifty pad save on a shot ticketed for the long side.
"The games in Philadelphia are always intense every time we come in here," Lundqvist said. "We're playing a lot of teams in the same spot as we are this week -- desperate teams. So it's important that we match that desperation and that energy and I think we were a little more desperate than (the Flyers)."
Artem Anisimov gave the Rangers a 2-1 edge when his hard backhand attempt from low in the left circle deflected off Flyers defenseman Ryan Parent and ricocheted past Brian Boucher (22 saves) 4:46 into the second. At the time of Anisimov's seventh goal of the season, Sean Avery was battling for position in front of the Flyers net with Parent, providing an added screen.
Rangers coach John Tortorella has been extremely pleased with the play of his rookie forward.
"With a young player, you're always looking at his play away from the puck because it allows you to put him on the ice even if he's not scoring," Tortorella said following his team's second straight triumph. "(Anisimov) has been very strong there. He's grasped what we're looking for. He listening and continues to get better. Offensively, he getting the goals but, from a coaches' point of view, he's playing well on the other side of puck as well."
Chris Higgins just missed extending the lead to two with 6:21 left in the second when his quick release at the tail end of a power-play was turned aside by Boucher. Defenseman Michal Rozsival also had a golden opportunity on New York's second power-play of the second when his slap shot from the right circle was blocked by Boucher with 4:50 left.
The loss was the 10th in 12 games for the struggling Flyers and the seventh setback since coach Peter Laviolette (2-6-1) took over behind the bench on Dec. 4.
"We're struggling a little bit in our end zone right now but that's something we'll have to continue to work through and Hank simply has to be Hank. We have a club here with some young guys in the back end; there's going to be some mistakes and we just need Hank to be himself while we find our way as a hockey club." - John Tortorella on Henrik Lundqvist
"I would have thought we'd rip the hinges off the gate tonight to get on the ice," Laviolette said. "This is about making the playoffs. This is about the Philadelphia Flyers playing a brand of hockey that you can be proud of. And I don't know how anyone could possibly be proud after the first two periods. It's completely unacceptable."
The Rangers opened a 1-0 lead just 5:16 into the first when captain Chris Drury capitalized on a Flyers turnover. Claude Giroux made a blind clearing attempt on one knee in his own zone that was stolen Drury between the circles. Drury, demoted to the fourth line the past two games, turned, fired and beat Boucher to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
"Dru gave us some important minutes at key times in certain parts of the game," Tortorella said. "He'll do anything to help the team win. He played center, left wing, right wing, took faceoffs and played a big part on our penalty-kill (which killed 4-of-5 chances by the Flyers). If he keeps doing the small things for us, he'll be a huge part of this hockey club."
Laviolette, obviously angered by the effort following the Drury goal, immediately called timeout and laced into his team with the hope of lighting a fire.
"He wanted to wake us up," Flyers forward Danny Briere said. "That was the message -- to get involved. It wasn't good enough the way we started the game and there's no excuses for that. It was two desperate teams. Everybody expected a little more out of us right off the get-go."
Laviolette's heart-to-heart with his players helped but not before Rangers forward Enver Lisin hit Chris Pronger behind the Flyers net following a whistle for icing at 7:45 that sent the fourth-year wing off the ice for an ill-advised boarding minor.
Pronger would make the Rangers pay for their gaffe when he controlled a feed from Simon Gagne at the right point and ripped a shot over the left shoulder of Lundqvist at 8:13 to even the score. The assist was Gagne's first point in 25 games -- he had been sidelined since Oct. 25 with a lower-body injury. In addition to scoring the Flyers' only goal, Pronger also did a commendable job on Rangers leading-scoring Marian Gaborik, who was limited to one shot in just under 21 minutes of ice time.
At the time Laviolette called his timeout, the Flyers were being outshot, 6-1. By the time the first period concluded, the shots were even, 9-9.
"I was disappointed after allowing their goal," Lundqvist said. "I should have been more active trying to find the puck. I never saw it, but they're defense is good at finding holes and putting the pucks through so I knew I had to be more active after that. The last couple of weeks I've felt pretty good so hopefully we can turn this around."
Tortorella knows his club will go as far as Lundqvist leads them.
"We have a busy month in January and Hank understands where we are as a hockey club with some of the things going on around him," Tortorella said. "I think he's trying to be a leader -- he's certainly stepped up in making some huge saves at key times for us the last couple of wins."
While the Rangers seem to be finding their niche, the Flyers remain stagnant. The club has produced only eight goals over the last six games.
"I thought our stuff wasn't good the first 5-7 minutes, but after that, I thought we out-skated them," Briere said. "But, it's the same problem we've been having now for the past month -- scoring goals. One or two goals a game isn't good enough for the team we have."
1 - 0 NYR
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NYR