Nik Zherdev offers little to reporters, but it was more relevant to the Flyers' fortunes that he had offered little to them on the ice during much of the early part of the season.
Signed as a free agent during the off-season, the 26-year-old from Ukraine wasn't scoring goals, and he seemed far from committed to playing defense - a bad combination in the eyes of coach Peter Laviolette.
But if Laviolette sees an honest effort, he'll dole out playing time accordingly, and, lately, Zherdev has reciprocated.
Zherdev broke a scoreless duel midway through the second period Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, then clinched a 4-1 victory over the Rangers with a power-play goal late in the third. The Flyers won their fifth in a row and are 10-1-3 in their last 14 games.
It was the Flyers' first game since losing their anchor on defense, Chris Pronger. They compensated for his loss with a strong overall defensive effort and solid goaltending from Brian Boucher, who stopped 24 shots and is 6-0-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average in his last seven starts.
Zherdev is in his sixth season in the NHL, but he played last season in a Russian league. He won $3.9 million in salary arbitration after leading the Rangers in points two years ago, but the Rangers let him go and no other team was willing to fit him under its salary cap. The Flyers signed him for one season at $2 million, and only recently has he begun to appear comfortable in his new surroundings.
"His skill level is probably the best on the team, and I think he's finally getting the system," Flyers captain Mike Richards said. "It probably was a little bit of a struggle for him at first, but he's played well lately, and he's definitely a threat every time he's on the ice."
Through an interpreter, Zherdev said it was no more thrilling to get two goals against his former team than against any other. But the sense of relief in the arena was palpable when he came out of the penalty box, took a superb blueline-to-blueline pass from Richards, and lifted a backhander over goalie Henrik Lundqvist for a 1-0 lead.
Richards, who was in the Flyers' end, said he knew the penalty had expired because Lundqvist banged his stick on the ice to warn his teammates.
"I heard him banging his stick and I just spun around and Z made a good play," Richards said.
Andreas Nodl made it 2-0 early in the third on a perfect setup from Claude Giroux. After the Flyers had a couple of loose shifts, Laviolette called a time-out midway through the third to get them back on track. They did, as Ville Leino, who has struggled of late, tipped in a shot from the point by Kimmo Timonen for a 3-1 lead.
Zherdev put the game away with a power-play goal, his 13th of the season. He tied his career high with two goals and has five goals in his last five games.
"He's playing really well, especially the last few games," Laviolette said. "And because of that he's getting some power-play time, and I like his line with [Jeff] Carter and James [van Riemsdyk]."