No saving Cates in this one. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 4-1, to the New York Rangers, spoiling Jackson Cates’ NHL debut and inching closer to the finish line of this miserable season.
Once again, it didn’t take long for the Rangers to start the scoring. With ex-Rag Kevin Hayes in the box for a hook, Artemi Panarin threaded a beautifully disguised shot-pass for an easy backdoor redirection goal for Chris Kreider. But once again, the Flyers prevented New York from breaking it open. Last night, it took a stellar performance from Brian Elliott to keep the Flyers within striking distance. Tonight, the offense struck back in short order. It was a bit of a broken play, but Oskar Lindblom somehow dragged the puck off Libor Hajek’s skate and through Alex Georgiev’s five-hole just 45 seconds after the Kreider tally.
But the Rangers struck back quickly as well. Just 66 seconds later, the Flyers’ third pair were burnt badly. Phil Myers got out of position finishing his check and Shayne Gostisbehere misread the situation at the net-front, allowing Pavel Buchnevich to walk in uncontested. Like Kreider, Buchnevich buried his 20th goal of the year at point-blank range, restoring the Rangers lead. For the second straight night, the Rangers outplayed (53.4% Corsi, 61.16% xG at 5-on-5, score and venue adjusted) and outscored the Flyers by one goal in the opening twenty minutes.
The second period got off to a pretty boring start, and it took a while for the action to pick up. It played pretty evenly, with the Rangers holding a slight 10-9 edge in shots on goal. But eventually, things started picking up. Scott Laughton, scoreless since March 20, tried to influence the flow of the game with a scrap on Kevin Rooney, who caught Sean Couturier with an awkward borderline leg trip seconds earlier (there was no penalty on that play). It wasn’t an amazing scrap, but the Flyers did have a chance to equalize the game shortly thereafter.
It all started with a (way) too many men penalty that Filip Chytil served. Then K’Andre Miller got a leg trip on Jake Voracek that was called, handing the Flyers 82 seconds of 5-on-3 time. But you knew they weren’t going to score after Shayne Gostisbehere broke his stick five seconds into the 5-on-3, then fanned on a pass immediately followed the next zone entry. The Flyers did show off some nice precision passing, but couldn’t convert. In fact, the most dangerous chance of the Flyers PP-time was a short-handed breakaway for Filip Chytil coming out of the box. Lyon came up with a massive stop on the short-handed chance, keeping the Flyers within one at intermission.
Philadelphia came out of their locker room with a spring in their step, starting the period very strong. But Georgiev robbed Couturier at point-blank range, then kicked out a quality look for James van Riemsdyk with a purpose. The Flyers’ momentum subsided, and the Rangers took advantage. Robert Hagg initially blocked a cross-crease pass from Buchnevich; but it somehow trickled over to Alexis Lafrenière, who banked the puck off acting-goaltender Jake Voracek and over the goal-line for an insurance marker.
At the other end, Georgiev, who started a bit shaky, looked dialed in the rest of the way. Another highlight-reel save on Nicolas Aube-Kubel cemented this wasn’t the Flyers night. The only goal they scored the rest of the way involved JVR barreling over Georgiev; it looked like K’Andre Miller may have shoved him in, but the play appeared to have been blown dead before Justin Braun flicked the puck into the open net, making it non-reviewable. Chytil, who looked dangerous all “series” long, made some nice stickhandles and put up a puck on the net that Lyon just whiffed on. 4-1 Rangers your final.
Mika Zibanejad’s 18 points against the Flyers this season are the most ever by a Ranger. Only Hockey Hall of Famers Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy have more at 19 apiece.
Here’s a niche but somewhat cool stat: Chris Kreider is second in the NHL with six tip-in goals this season. The real reason why it’s cool? James van Riemsdyk is first with eight.
Artemi Panarin became the second-fastest Ranger to 100 assists with his helper, needing only 106 games to do it. Only Mark Messier (104 games) reached the milestone fasted for the Blueshirts. He and Zibanejad are 1-2 in scoring since Panarin returned from his leave of absence on March 13. The Rangers are 14-6-3 since his return. The Rangers certainly have a bright future ahead of them.
Nolan Patrick came out of the lineup to make room for Cates. With Patrick’s nightmare season nearing its end (8 points in 43 games, 1 point in his last 10), the focus is starting to shift to whether or not he’ll be a Flyer next year. Two big Sportsnet insiders — Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos — reported the Flyers were shopping Patrick at the trade deadline. The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek listed him as a player he thought could use a change of scenery (including others like Colorado’s Tyson Jost).
What an opportunity tonight was for Jackson Cates, getting the opportunity against players like Panarin, Zibanejad, and… the guy he played against two weeks ago? That’s Rangers defenseman Zac Jones, who made his NHL debut last night; the two faced off in the NCAA Championship in late March. Jones’ UMass team took down Cates and the University of Minnesota-Duluth 4-0 on April 10.
Even though they basically split the season series (PHI: 4-3-1, NYR: 4-2-2), the Rangers finish with a +13 goal differential against the Flyers. If only there is a game (or two) that explains why there’s such a wide discrepancy.
Another reason for that discrepancy? The Flyers lack of offense in these two games, which has been a problem for over a month. The Flyers have not scored more than three goals in a game in thirteen straight, dating back to March 18.
3rd: Pavel Buchnevich (NYR) – Goal (20), Assist (22)
2nd: Alexis Lafrenière (NYR) – Goal (9), Assist (7)
1st: Alexander Georgiev (NYR) – .963 SV% (26 Saves/27 Shots), 1 GA on 2.03 xGA
PHI – 4/25, 6 PM vs. NJ (14-26-6, L8)
NYR – 4/25, 6 PM vs. BUF (12-28-7, L2)
Advanced Stats via Natural Stat Trick