NEW YORK – Talk to the Flyers and, despite ridiculously high odds, they still think they can climb into a playoff spot.
Their goalies are making believers out of them.
Anthony Stolarz enabled the Flyers to inch a little closer in the playoff race Tuesday as they won their fifth straight, a 1-0 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
“We’re playing pretty confident right now,” left winger Oskar Lindblom said after the Flyers moved to within 10 points of Pittsburgh for a playoff spot. “We’re on a roll. We just feel good and we’re having a lot of fun out there.”
The Flyers, who are 3-0 against the Rangers this season, were outshot by a 38-19 margin. New York had a 66-30 domination in shot attempts.
“They’re not all Picassos,” interim coach Scott Gordon said.
Carter Hart, the young goalie who plays with poise beyond his years, has shown he isn’t intimidated and that he belongs in the NHL.
Now the 6-foot-6 Stolarz is trying to show the Flyers he belongs, too. He made 38 saves Tuesday and recorded his second career shutout.
Stolarz, 25, said he has been motivated by the 20-year-old Hart.
“I kind of want to match his playing and his intensity out there," Stolarz said. “He’s so poised and so calm in the net that I’m just trying to take things from him and incorporate them into my game. When the goalies are going [well], the guys have confidence. We want to keep that going as a tandem here."
Added Stolarz: “If I want to get in the net, I’m going to have to match him. It’s always good to have some healthy competition.”
Stolarz “played great. He didn’t give up any second shots and that makes our job easier,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said after his second consecutive solid performance.
The Central Jersey native was the only reason the Flyers carried a 1-0 lead into the third period. The Flyers were outshot, 25-14, and the Stolarz had to make at least six “how-did-he-do-that?” saves to keep the Rangers off the scoreboard.
With the Rangers on a power play at the latter stages of the second, Stolarz made three remarkable stops on Chris Kreider -- a redirect, a rebound, and a one-timer from the slot.
“I had some of my friends and family come up for the game,” Stolarz said, “so it’s pretty special for me.”
Kreider whipped a shot off the post on a two-on-one with about four minutes to go in the second. With about 12 minutes left in the third, Stolarz’ shutout stayed intact when Filip Chytil’s shot hit the post.
Stolarz, coming off an injury that had prevented him from playing for the Flyers since Dec. 15, was also sensational in the opening period, stopping all 13 shots he faced, including a point-blank attempt by an all-alone Kreider. He twice stopped Brett Howden in front, highlighted by a sprawling save with 8:25 to go in the period.
The Rangers, playing their first game after a nine-day layoff, looked rusty in the early stages and allowed the first five shots.
Lindblom, whose playing time has increased greatly since Gordon replaced Dave Hakstol, gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead just 1:40 into the game, scoring on a backhand rebound that he lifted high into the net for his sixth goal.
Sean Couturier, Jake Voracek, and Lindblom all crashed the net against backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev.
“We were all trying to find a rebound and the puck got to me,” said Lindblom, whose team was playing on back-to-back nights. “I had an open net.”
For Stolarz, playing in his first NHL game in a little more than six weeks paled in comparison to missing most of last season following a pair of knee surgeries.
“It’s been a little bit of a process coming back, but it wasn’t anything like the year-and-a-half I had to miss,” Stolarz, selected with one of the draft picks [second-rounder in 2012] the Flyers acquired in the ill-fated deal that sent Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus, said before the game. “I feel really good. We definitely made sure everything was right going forward. For me, having time to work back into game shape has definitely helped me.”
With a little more than eight minutes left in the first, Howden collided with Michael Raffl, limped off the ice and did not return. That left the Rangers, who dressed an extra defenseman, with just 10 forwards instead of the usual 12.
That didn’t slow down their attack.