NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — One down, three to go.
Brad Richards and Derek Stepan scored 47 seconds apart, and the New York Rangers beat the Flyers 4-1 in their playoff opener Thursday night to stretch their home-winning streak over rival Philadelphia to nine games.
After the game there was no shortage of praise for Richards, who could be sent packing this offseason.
“He’s so smart mentally, real wise in his experience, and he just steps up in big moments,” Ryan McDonagh said, according to the New York Daily News.
Richards, who finished with three points, gave the Rangers their first lead when a rebound of Martin St. Louis’ shot came to him, and he fired it in from the right circle, punctuating the moment with an emphatic fist pump at 8:22.
Richards and St. Louis hooked up again to help set up Stepan’s insurance goal. New York worked the puck around the Philadelphia end, and Richards faked a drive. He instead sent a hard pass to Stepan for a shot into the open left side.
“If you don’t score or don’t get momentum there, it can go the other way pretty quickly, and they can build off that,” Richards said. “One was huge, but to be able to go back out there and get the other one, obviously that won us the game.”
Defenseman Andrew MacDonald had given the Flyers a 1-0 lead in the first, but the Rangers answered with Mats Zuccarello’s goal.
Carl Hagelin pushed New York’s edge to 4-1 with 4:08 left off another assist from Richards.
Henrik Lundqvist made 14 saves for the win. Ray Emery, subbing for injured No. 1 goalie Steve Mason, stopped 32 shots in the loss. The Flyers had one shot in the third period.
“I thought we were in good position tied going into the third, and obviously we would like to have a better third period, but it’s a long series,” Emery said. “We came in here for two games, we have to get one.
“We would like to get one. We thought it might be that one, but I guess it will be the next one.”
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday in New York.
The Rangers haven’t lost to Philadelphia at Madison Square Garden since March 6, 2011, outscoring the Flyers 35-10 in that span.
The Flyers took the lead on their first shot, after allowing four, following a big hit by Scott Hartnell on defenseman Ryan McDonagh to free the puck in the offensive zone.
MacDonald, a trade deadline acquisition from the New York Islanders, wound up for a slap shot on the playoffs logo and sent the puck sailing past Lundqvist after it hit St. Louis in flight at 7:28.
As the shot flew past him, McDonagh — who struggled with the puck several times in the opening period in his first game in April 1 — hit Claude Giroux in the side with his stick, sending the Flyers captain to the ice. Giroux was down on all fours before gingerly skating to the bench. He returned to action.
“I was not myself, and just couldn’t get a good grip on the puck, couldn’t feel my skates,” said McDonagh, who missed five games because of an injured shoulder. “The guys stayed positive with me and I found a way to contribute.”
The Rangers got even with 9:07 left on a strong, determined effort by Zuccarello. Benoit Pouliot skated in search of space and lost the puck off his stick in the left circle. Zuccarello swooped in, got the puck and fired a hard shot that Emery blocked away. While in stride, Zuccarello got the puck back and deftly slipped in a backhand for his second career NHL playoff goal.
Rick Nash had five of New York’s 14 shots in the first, mostly from long range, and nearly matched Philadelphia’s total of six in the frame.
Both teams generated chances in the second period, but no goals. The Rangers again led in shots, but by a slight 9-8 margin.
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