For the second consecutive game, the New York Rangers jumped out to an early two-goal lead, and this time the Philadelphia Flyers couldn't recover.
Even in the friendly confines of Wells Fargo Center with a passionate crowd behind them, the Flyers failed to fight back far enough. Philadelphia fell to the Rangers 4-1 in Game 3 of this opening-round Eastern Conference NHL playoff clash on Tuesday, giving New York a 2-1 edge in the series.
After notching just five points in 12 games in last year's postseason, Rangers star Rick Nash continued his strong start to the 2014 playoffs, dishing out assists on the first two goals of the game.
Martin St. Louis, acquired by New York in a trade-deadline deal from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, continued to justify that bold move.
The 38-year-old veteran also had a hand in setting up Derek Stepan's goal just 3:54 into the first period, then lit the lamp himself little more than halfway through the first to give the Rangers a commanding advantage.
Andrew Gross of The Record alluded to the impressive statistics St. Louis has produced after initially struggling in his adjustment to the Big Apple:
St. Louis makes it 2-0 at 10:24 of the first off a deflection. That's two goals, three assists in seven playoff periods for Rangers.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) April 23, 2014
Momentum looked to be swinging back in the Flyers' favor when the fans were cock-a-hoop thanks to Mark Streit's first-period goal less than three minutes before the intermission.
There is no shortage of intensity in this series, as the New York Daily News' Pat Leonard observed:
There is a Flyers fan in the front row literally trying to challenge the Rangers from behind the boards. A grown man— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) April 22, 2014
Philadelphia continued to apply the pressure in the second period, out-shooting the Rangers 13-4. But Dan Girardi made the most on a quarter of New York's shots, beating Ray Emery to stretch the lead to 3-1, per NHL.com's Adam Kimelman:
2nd period over, Rangers lead 3-1. Flyers outshot Rangers 13-4 in 2nd period, but Girardi's shot only one that got through— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) April 23, 2014
It was going to take a physical, gutsy effort for the Blueshirts to pull this one out in a hostile environment on the road, and that's precisely what they brought to the table. After getting a limited number of power-play opportunities in the first two contests, Philadelphia had a man advantage five times Tuesday, yet didn't capitalize on any of those chances.
CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio highlighted a big reason why through two periods—the Rangers' willingness to get in front of the puck and stop it at all costs:
How good have the Rangers been blocking shots? They had 5 on that last Flyers PP and 20 overall in the game— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) April 23, 2014
Daniel Carcillo was brought into the lineup in Game 3 at the last minute by coach Alain Vigneault, who alluded to what Carcillo brings to the ice, per the New York Daily News' Pat Leonard:
Dan’s an experienced player. He brings energy to a team. He’s a hard, smart player. He goes to the tough areas, and when he has an opportunity to lay a good, physical hit, he does that. With him in our lineup this year, we’ve had a very good record.
That energy was certainly evident on Tuesday not only from Carcillo—who went to the sin bin in the second period for roughing Flyers star Claude Giroux—but for the Rangers' entire team.
The ex-Flyer Carcillo also had the pleasure of adding the late dagger in the third period against his former team, scoring not long after being called for a two-minute hooking minor on Philadelphia's Matt Read.
Kenny Albert of Fox Sports alluded to the strong track record Carcillo has versus the Flyers, and ESPN's Katie Strang logged what Carcillo had to say after his stellar performance:
Following that last goal, goalie Ray Emery was pulled in favor of typical starter Steve Mason, who has struggled with an upper-body injury but dressed Tuesday after not being in uniform for the Flyers' first two playoff games.
Friday's Game 4 should thus feature Mason between the pipes, which has to give Philadelphia some comfort. However, with the way the Rangers are playing on offense, grinding on defense and having renewed their confidence with this triumph, it might not matter who's in goal for Philly.
The Rangers could have laid down, come out flat away from Madison Square Garden and gotten themselves into a big hole. They instead dominated and now find themselves with home ice back in hand as the rest of this series unfolds. Based on the first three games, the pendulum should continue swinging back and forth in what has all the makings of a seven-game epic.
But for that to happen, it's up to the Flyers to hold their own on their own rink. If they can't bounce back and recover from being bullied by New York, Carcillo and the rest of the Rangers, this series could be over in short order.