NEW YORK -- It was maddening to watch.
For 1 minute, 17 seconds during the second period, the Flyers had a two-man advantage, yet they were painstakingly indecisive on when or where to shoot as they passed the puck around.
They already had two shots blocked, just like their futile power plays over the weekend in Tampa.
Maybe the Rangers' shot blockers had gotten into their heads.
So they looked. And hesitated. Searching for a perfect shot that didn’t exist.
That was the game within the game of another Flyer loss, this one 2-1 to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
“That’s the danger,” Mike Knuble said. “They are a great shot-blocking team. It is one of the characteristics of their team that they do well. Not a couple guys. Everybody does it.
“If you allow that to creep in 5-on-3 looking for something perfect, the bang-bang play, you might pass up a good opportunity to get a puck in, get it going and soften it up and create some havoc.”
This only created frustration, especially when the Rangers went from that kill immediately onto their own power play and scored.
With King Henrik Lundqvist in net, the 2-0 lead seemed like six goals.
“You have that opportunity for over a minute, lots of zone time and puck movement, but not the opportunities we were looking for,” coach Peter Laviolette said.
“They’re looking to shoot. Again, you’re talking about one of the teams that blocks shots better than anybody. Nobody really knows what [our players] were looking at.
“We can go back and look to see if there were lanes or other options open. Those are the guys we want on the ice. I have a lot of confidence in them. It didn’t work out.”
Special teams continue to be the Flyers' downfall. They came in 4 for 31 on the power play and went 1 for 6.
They had also yielded nine goals on 29 penalty kills. They were 1 for 2.
Both units are among the worst in the league right now.
“Special teams are even more important this season,” Knuble said. “Teams that can kill penalties are going to do well and teams that score on the power play, as well. It was very evident in Tampa.
“And it was evident tonight. It was very deflating to give up a power-play goal … then we have our 5-on-3 and it doesn’t go, and to be honest, it wasn’t a big threat.”
When the Flyers ended their eight-game winless skid against the Rangers last week in Philly, it was a 5-on-3 penalty kill that turned the tide.
The Rangers returned the disfavor with a brilliant 5-on-3 kill on which they stared the Flyers down.
“Definitely a key tonight to have our special teams play well,” Lundqvist said. “To kill off the 5-on-3 was huge.”
Incredibly, the Flyers still had ample chances to draw even with three power plays in the third period, converting once on Kimmo Timonen’s 4-on-3 shot from the slot. That made it a one-goal nail biter.
“The third period, we had zone time,” Laviolette said. “We gotta do a better job of finding opportunities once we’re in the zone.
“They’re a difficult team to generate against. They were all last year and remain that way, but somehow we have to find the cracks in the offense there ... we didn’t cash in.”
No one knows better than Danny Briere. He had 10 shots on Lundqvist.
“I thought I had five or six, a couple good chances,” Briere said. “It’s Lundqvist. On most goalies, it would have been a two or three-goal night.”
The other guy? Ilya Bryzgalov was under siege for much of the game, right from the opening period.
Bryzgalov (26 saves) had another strong effort, too. Outside of Philly, no one really knows how solid he’s looked despite a 2-4 record.
“It’s not enough,” Bryzgalov sighed. “Just continue to do whatever I do. Play hard and give the team a chance to win the game.
“To be honest, I don’t care what people outside here think. We have to find a way to start winning games. It’s time.”
The Rangers came hard at the outset, made their presence felt and the Flyers closed strong, boosted in part because the Rangers went with just five defensemen in the third period.
Ryan Callahan apparently dislocated his left shoulder on a fall to the ice while tussling with Max Talbot.
It took less than two minutes for Michael Del Zotto to score off a point at the start with Brian Boyle screening out Bryzgalov.
Truthfully, of the Flyers' nine shots that first period, only a couple really taxed Lundqvist. Briere had two rebound chances with 11:00 left. Somehow, Lundqvist managed to make both saves and was moving on both.
“I’m going to keep shooting, even if it hurts my shooting percentage,” Briere quipped.
The turning point was the two-man advantage when the Flyers seemed paralyzed to do anything with the puck.
This after Laviolette had burned his timeout before that power play began, giving his players a rest, reinforcing what had to be done.
And when the power play ended, Talbot tripped Del Zotto to avoid a breakaway, and the Rangers used the momentum off their PK to score on their power play just 29 seconds later.
Really, two goals was all Lundqvist (26 saves) needed.
“They definitely had their chances,” he said. “But we played really well. We played smart and hard and really aggressive.”
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