Henrik Lundqvist sharp as New York Rangers edge Philadelphia Flyers

By Chuck Gormley, The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 26, 2016 at 12:45 PM
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PHILADELPHIA -- Less than 48 hours after getting mowed down by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers got back on track with a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Friday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

Forwards Derek Stepan, Matt Puempel and Kevin Hayes each scored goals, and Lundqvist, who was pulled in Wednesday night's 6-1 loss to the Penguins, turned aside 40 of 42 shots to lead the Rangers (15-6-1) to their second win in three games.

"Sometimes you have a stretch of 10 minutes where it's not there because your focus shifts a little bit," Lundqvist said of putting Wednesday night's loss behind him. "Against a good team they make you pay sometimes. I think the most important thing is to not overreact or read the papers."

Forward Chris VandeVelde and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere were credited with goals for the Flyers (9-10-3), who battled back from a 3-0 deficit but lost for the third time in four games and fell below .500 for the first time since Nov 11.

Steve Mason (5-8-3) took the loss, stopping 20 of 23 shots.

"Their goalie played a good game," said Flyers captain Claude Giroux, whose goal-less streak is now at eight games. "He made some key saves for them but we stuck with it and at the end we were right there to tie it up. I think we played a solid game but we can't find a way to get the win. We have to stay positive."

Stepan got things started 13:16 into the game when he netted his fourth goal of the season. J.T. Miller picked off Scott Laughton's pass intended for Brandon Manning and fed Stepan in front for his second goal in three games.

A pair of Rangers with similar histories took over from there.

Puempel, taken 24th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2011 NHL draft, was claimed off waivers by the Rangers on Monday and scored his first goal of the season in his Rangers debut at 14:50 of the first period. Puempel, 23, took a nice feed from Jimmy Vesey and beat Mason inside the left post on New York's sixth shot of the game for a 2-0 lead.

Puempel said being claimed by New York on Monday was like an "early Christmas" gift after struggling to find playing time in Ottawa.

"It's just been amazing," he said. "Ever since noon on Monday it's been a blast. I've enjoyed every second of it. I guess you can call it a (second chance). I always thought I had more to give (in Ottawa)."

Hayes made it 3-0 midway through the second period with his 10th goal of the season, redirecting a Nick Holden point shot past Mason's glove hand.

Hayes, 24, is enjoying the best start of his NHL career. Taken 24th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, Hayes never signed with the Hawks and joined the Rangers in 2014.

After a strong 17-goal, 45-point rookie season, Hayes' play dipped last season (14 goals, 36 points) but has rebounded early this season. He is tied with Miller for the team lead with 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) and is second behind linemate Michael Grabner with a plus-16 rating.

"With Mika (Zibanejad) being out he's getting an opportunity and important minutes," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We've got a lot of confidence and faith in him. He's still a young player who I think is on the upswing."

The Flyers staged a late rally, drawing within 3-1 on a redirect goal by VandeVelde, his third of the season, with 1:34 gone in the third period. Gostisbehere drew the Flyers within 3-2 with 2:04 to play with a slapper from the point that appeared to go off teammate Brayden Schenn. But Lundqvist shut the door the rest of the way with four saves in the final two minutes.

"I thought we played three good periods today," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "We made two or three critical errors that ended up in the back of our net. We've got to get them out of our game."

NOTES: Flyers D Brandon Manning left the game midway through the third period with an undisclosed injury and did not return. ... Rangers RW Pavel Buchnevich (back) sat out his seventh straight game, while C Mika Zibanejad (broken fibula) missed his third. ... Flyers C Sean Couturier (knee) sat out his second straight game. D Michael Del Zotto, who played parts of five seasons with the Rangers, was a healthy scratch for the Flyers, along with D Nick Schultz. ... Rangers D Ryan McDonagh entered the game ranked second among NHL defensemen in primary (nine) and even-strength (10) assists. ... The Rangers return home for games against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday and Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. ... The Flyers continue their three-game homestand Sunday night against the Calgary Flames, followed by a Tuesday night visit by the Boston Bruins.

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