After a one-game hiccup, New York gave hundreds of fans that made that trip down the turnpike a reminder of how the Rangers became one of the top teams in the NHL.
Kevin Hayes and Michael Grabner each scored two goals, Henrik Lundqvist stopped 30 shots and the Rangers beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 on Wednesday night.
Chris Kreider also scored to lead the Rangers to their fourth win in five games and match Columbus (27 wins overall and a 16-game winning streak) for the most wins in the NHL.
”We haven’t been able to pull the big winning streak together but we’ve been able to respond quickly when we’ve had a letdown,” Lundqvist said.
Kreider continued to shine following a stout December when he scored 11 goals and became the first Ranger to score at least 10 goals in a month in almost three years.
The Rangers quickly rebounded from a 4-1 home loss to Buffalo on Tuesday that was just their third defeat in the last 10 games.
”I think it was important to show ourselves we were better than that,” Lundqvist said.
New York also improved to 7-0-0 in the second game of back-to-backs, remaining the only NHL team without a loss in such games.
Jake Voracek scored twice for the Flyers.
Philadelphia is headed the other way and a 10-game winning streak in December seems like it happened much longer ago. Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said they didn’t have the ”snarl” they displayed during the winning streak. They lost four straight on the road, five overall and seven of eight since the streak ended on Dec. 17.
”I don’t think anybody in the locker room is thinking about the winning streak,” Voracek said. ”We don’t want to chase the playoffs again.”
The Rangers just did enough on their 28 shots to take out a weary Steve Mason. Mason started for the 22nd time in the last 24 games and let the Rangers grab a 3-0 lead.
Did he feel tired?
”I wasn’t good enough,” Mason said. ”Pretty simple.”
Mason, a free agent at the end of the season, was scheduled to share time with Michal Neuvirth. Neuvirth has been plagued by injuries and that left Mason, one win shy of third on the Flyers’ career list, handling the bulk of the playing time.
Mason has been solid but is still playing for a contract for next season.
”Every decision we make, you’ve got to continue to monitor,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said at first intermission. ”When we feel like there’s a time to react, we’ll react.”
Neuvirth also needs to prove his worth with prospect Anthony Stolarz looming in the minors and ready to show he can be the Flyers goalie of the future.
”Michal’s got to prove that he can stay healthy. He’s showing us the kind of hockey he can play and he can make us a better team so we’ve got our fingers crossed,” Hextall said. ”Hopefully he can play well and stay healthy.”
The Flyers could have used Hextall in his prime against the Rangers.
Hayes streaked uncontested to the circle and used a head-fake to Jesper Fast like a pass was coming. Mason and the Flyers were fooled and Hayes dumped in his 13th goal of the season for a 1-0 lead in the second.
”Both the D men went down. I usually pass,” Hayes said.
Kreider and Grabner both scored in the third to make it 3-1 and Hayes added his 14th goal late in the period to finish off one of their biggest rivals. Grabner added an empty-netter for his 16th goal to make it 5-2.
Voracek scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season in the third in front of a Wells Fargo Center crowd that was mostly left with a large number of vocal Rangers fans in the final minutes.
NOTES: Rangers D Marc Staal sat out with an upper-body injury. He’s expected to miss at least one more game. … The Rangers were the last team to beat the Flyers at home in regulation on Nov. 25. … Flyers D Mark Streit (shoulder) is close to a return after a lengthy absence. He’s been cleared for contact and should travel with the team on an upcoming road trip. ”Mark does have a lot of intangibles that are good for our locker room and good for our team and obviously he’s a veteran presence on the ice,” Hextall said. … The Rangers lead the league in road wins (14).
Rangers: Play Saturday at Columbus.
Flyers: Host Tampa Bay on Saturday.