NEW YORK – Their coach, Craig Berube, put it best: The Flyers didn’t have enough fight.
Up against their divisional rivals the New York Rangers, in a building in which they haven’t won in more than three years, the Flyers simply didn’t have the necessary passion and energy to win a critical game.
They paid the price, losing one of their most important games of the season, 3-1 (see Instant Replay).
“Every game means a lot,” Berube said. “Teams are going to battle hard and we need to battle harder. We need everybody going, doing the right things out there. Tonight we didn’t have it. We didn’t have our best players playing tonight.”
Instead, the Flyers saw the Rangers’ Metropolitan Division lead over them grow to three points. The Flyers, after the loss, remained in third place. They’ve now lost back-to-back games after winning five in a row.
It’s the Rangers, in fact, who now lay claim to a five-game winning streak.
“They do the same thing every time,” Wayne Simmonds said, “The D got the puck, they sent three guys to the far blue line, and it is what it is. We didn’t reload well enough. We didn’t support the puck well enough. We didn’t bear down when we got our chances on [Henrik] Lundqvist.”
The Flyers will have to settle for a season series tie with the Rangers. They won two at home, but lost both games at the Garden, a building in which they’ve now lost eight in a row.
It didn’t have to turn out that way, though. The Flyers actually kept pace with the Rangers early, even outshooting them 15-6 in the first period. Though they trailed 1-0 thanks to Rangers winger Derek Dorsett’s first-period goal, it was after the first 20 minutes that things really started to go downhill for the Flyers.
“I thought the first period, we were good,” Berube said. “I think we played a pretty smart period in the first, did a lot of smart things. I thought we got outworked in the second period, especially on the walls. We weren’t very good on the walls.”
But right from the get-go in the second period, the Flyers were flat, Berube said. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh gave the Rangers a two-goal lead early in the period, and what little momentum the Flyers had seemed to dissipate entirely.
The Flyers went a stretch in the middle of the second during which they were outshot, 6-0.
“We got away from what was making us successful,” Steve Mason said. “You look at the intensity that we brought in games against Pittsburgh, and I just feel that it wasn’t there tonight. These are huge games for us, and for us to not come out with our best effort, we need better.”
Mason stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced. Across the ice, Lundqvist stopped 30 of 31. The Rangers’ defense proved to be too much for the Flyers. They struggled to hold on to the puck, turning it over far too much in the neutral zone especially.
The Rangers took a 3-0 lead midway through the third period on Dominic Moore’s goal that Mason never saw coming. And though Jakub Voracek saved the Flyers from being shut out -- on his 100th NHL career goal -- the little fight he showed wasn’t enough.
“We didn’t play our game,” Claude Giroux said. “It’s like we didn’t have any energy. Some lines did play well, did the right things. Our line wasn’t doing the right things out there, we were doing a lot of bad things.
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting ready and play better games.”