Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Rangers Shock Flyers

In the much anticipated return of NHL hockey where every team was in action for the first time since '28-29 when 10 teams existed, the one match-up considered to be a mismatch was the new look Rangers facing a stacked Flyers squad at Wachovia Center. Possibly drawing inspiration from Sports Illustrated picking them to finish last overall, the Rangers stunned the Flyers 5-3 in the Wednesday night Outdoor Life Network debut.

After falling behind 3-1 on rookie Mike Richards' first NHL goal at 7:23 of the second period, coach Tom Renney's Rangers dug deep, scoring four unanswered goals to pull off the upset.

With 6:33 left in the second, Michael Nylander was rewarded a penalty shot. But with a chance to cut the lead to one, his shot hit the post. Despite that miss, the Rangers kept coming and finally drew within one when Jamie Lundmark scored after a power play expired. On a broken play, Lundmark tallied his first of the season when he ripped a slapshot past Robert Esche with 3:04 remaining. The goal gave the Blueshirts some momentum heading to the third.

That's when the team's biggest star took over the game. With Jon Sim off for high sticking, Jaromir Jagr tied it beating Esche five-hole at 6:28. Martin Straka and Martin Rucinsky tallied assists.

Jagr made the Flyers pay again when Peter Forsberg went off for tripping Rucinsky. Taking a feed from Tom Poti, Jagr snapped a wrist shot off Esche's shoulder and into the net giving the Rangers a 4-3 lead just 4:58 later for his second of the night. He finished with three points (2-1-3).

"He's a great leader and he was the difference," Darius Kasparaitis told reporters afterwards on Jagr.

"If they let me shoot, they let me shoot," Jagr said. "That's fine with me. They covered everybody else. I'll take it any time."

After Jagr's second goal, Marcel Hossa potted a Steve Rucchin rebound into an open side on the next shift, 33 seconds later. Rucchin and rookie Ryan Hollweg notched assists. It was Hollweg's first NHL point.

After killing off a Dominic Moore penalty late, the Rangers outworked the more expensive Flyers at even-strength, playing the kind of determined hockey Renney promised. In particular, the fourth line of Moore, Hollweg and Jason Ward shined. The vets chipped in and Kevin Weekes turned aside 24 of 27 shots to seal the win.

The Rangers got off to a good start in the first when Jason Strudwick beat Esche at 9:31 for the game's first goal. Michael Nylander and Jagr registered assists. But the Flyers came right back 2:08 later to tie it. Off a mix-up between Blair Betts and Jed Ortmeyer, Simon Gagne converted a Forsberg pass on a two-on-one.

Mike Knuble gave the Flyers the lead on a power play. With Darius Kasparaitis in the box for high sticking, Knuble one-timed a Forsberg saucer pass by Weekes to put the Flyers up 2-1 at 13:54. It was Forsberg's second helper on the night. Eric Desjardins also picked up one.

It was the only power play goal Philadelphia (0-1-0) scored in 10 attempts. By contrast, the Rangers were two-for-four on a night when everything went right. For one day at least, the Rangers are tied for first in the Atlantic.

Rangers (1-0-0) host Montreal (1-0-0) at Madison Square Garden tonight at 7 PM.

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