New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
PHILADELPHIA -- One night after seeing Henrik Lundqvist allow four goals on 19 shots, New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault says he never gave a second thought to starting his veteran goaltender against the Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday night.
"He's our best player," Vigneault said after Lundqvist turn aside 30 of 32 shots in a 5-2 win. "It was an easy call and he responded real well."
So did the rest of the Rangers, who followed their lackluster 4-1 home loss to the Buffalo Sabres with a complete win over the Flyers.
Michael Grabner and Kevin Hayes each scored a pair of goals and Chris Kreider picked up another to give the Rangers their first win of 2017. The Rangers (27-13-1) won for the fourth time in five games and moved 10 points ahead of the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division standings.
"It was important to show ourselves that we are better than that," Lundqvist said of Tuesday's loss. "I think so far this year we've been doing a pretty good job of responding when we have a letdown. We all felt like we had to respond, me included."
The Rangers are now 12-1-1 following losses this season.
The Flyers (20-15-5) are now 1-5-2 since their 10-game win streak ended on Dec. 17. Jakub Voracek netted a pair of third-period goals for the Flyers, who have allowed 21 goals in their last five games, all losses.
"I don't think anybody in the locker room is thinking about that 10-game winning streak," Voracek said. "We are in a slide right now. We know that and we need to find a way to win some games because we don't want to chase the playoffs again."
Flyers goalie Steve Mason, who has started 22 of the Flyers' last 24 games, took the loss and fell to 14-13-5.
"It's not a fun time right now," Mason said. "We have to find way to come out on top and just push through here without getting too discouraged."
The Flyers also saw their 7-0-1 home streak come to an end. Their previous regulation loss came on Nov. 25 against the Rangers.
Hayes scored the game-winning goal in that game and was dominant again Wednesday night.
After a scoreless first period in which each team failed to score on power-play opportunities, the Rangers grabbed a 1-0 lead 2:08 into the second period on Hayes' first goal in 13 games. Hayes, who netted 10 goals in his first 22 games, took advantage of an overaggressive offensive zone pinch by Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning, beating Manning down the ice and flipping a shot through Mason for his 12th goal of the season.
"I play with good guys who move the puck," Hayes said of linemates Derek Stepan and Kreider. "I got two opportunities and got lucky."
The Flyers threatened to tie the score with 12 shots in the second period, but Lundqvist was outstanding between the pipes, stopping a point-blank shot by Brayden Schenn, then going spread eagle to stop him again on a backhand rebound.
"That's why he is who he is," Flyers rookie Travis Konecny said. "It's hard to beat him."
The Rangers put the game out of reach with four goals in the third period. Kreider netted his 16th goal of the season on a nice feed from Stepan 5:01 into the period, and Grabner made it 3-0 midway through the period. Voracek spoiled Lundqvist's bid for his second shutout of the season when he scored his 12th goal of the season with 7:28 remaining.
Hayes restored the Rangers' three-goal lead when he used another burst of speed down the right wing to beat Mason. Voracek scored again with just under 3 minutes left but Grabner hit an empty net to seal it for New York.
"There's no doubt they knew last night was way below our expectations individually and collectively," Vigneault said, "and they came tonight prepared and competed and played a real strong game."
NOTES: Rangers D Marc Staal missed his first game of the season with an upper-body injury and coach Alain Vigneault said he will miss Saturday's game in Columbus as well. D Adam Clendening took his spot in the lineup and played alongside D Kevin Klein. ... Flyers RW Boyd Gordon was a surprise starter, taking the place of Roman Lyubimov. ... The Rangers are back on the road on Saturday when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have not lost at home since Nov. 23 (8-0-0). After Saturday's game the Rangers will have a five-day bye from Jan. 8-12. ... The Flyers are back in action Saturday afternoon at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning, then get their crack at the streaking Blue Jackets on Sunday in Columbus.