For great teams, first-round playoff series are often exercises in tedium. See the Western Conference playoffs for proof.
Anaheim, Colorado and St. Louis amassed a staggering 339 regular-season points among them. They were the three best teams in the Western Conference in the regular season. They are an aggregate 6-0 in the playoffs.
That is what great teams do in first-round series. They put the lower seeds in 0-2 holes and make them see that the only way to survive is to beat a demonstrably better team four times in five tries, with any seventh game happening in the better team's building.
We know this because the Rangers jumped the Flyers in Game 2 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series, taking a 2-0 lead to the dressing room after the first period at Madison Square Garden.
Against an Anaheim, a Colorado or a St. Louis, thoughts of a comeback would have been silly.
But these are the Rangers. Other than their recent, fluky winning streak against the Flyers at MSG, nothing about the Rangers suggests greatness. They are another good, but not dominant playoff team. They have strengths and they have weaknesses, just like the Flyers.
For the next two periods, the Flyers' strengths and the Rangers' weaknesses coalesced in time to save the Flyers' season. For now.
The Flyers chiseled three gritty goals out of the second period, and the Garden crowd started making those unsettled sounds that occasionally emanate from the Wells Fargo Center fans when the Flyers struggle.
Then the Flyers buttoned up the center of the ice in the third period, outshooting the Blueshirts 8-7 and generating better scoring chances.
The crowning glory of the Flyers' third period was forechecking the Rangers into their final self-inflicted wound, a late penalty for too many men on the ice when Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist aborted his attempt to come off for an extra attacker after that player had already jumped over the boards.
Even the goal that put the game away, 4-2, for the Flyers was born of an equal combination of grit, skill, iffy decision-making and luck.
With less than a minute left, Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds took the puck from his left defensive circle and, instead of flipping it to center ice or trying to clear it up the boards, carried it in front of his own net with two Rangers in close pursuit.
Simmonds managed to carry the puck out of his defensive zone and hit New York's empty net seconds later to lock up the Flyers' first win of the series.
Returning to a theme, the play Simmonds made at the end of the game was thrilling, but not the sort of play you should try against a great team in its own building.
As often as not, one of the forechecking opponents knocks the puck free and suddenly the puck and the game are up for grabs in the slot in front of your net.
These being the Flyers and the Rangers, though, Simmonds' play worked out just fine.
So the series comes to Philadelphia even at 1-1, the Rangers eschewing a chance to put the Flyers on the express train to elimination. The Flyers effectively saved their season in the last two periods of Game 2.
As long as the Flyers continue to play teams that are not demonstrably better than they are, they are apt to have several more of these "save the season" opportunities.
They will survive as long as they respond to them.
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