NEW YORK - Lining up across from Sean Avery with just 11 minutes to play last night, Flyers forward Jody Shelley had to show restraint, like boys gazing at the popular girl at the high school prom.
"We had lots of guys that wanted to have a little dance with Avery," coach Peter Laviolette said. "We had lots of guys that wanted to do it, but he just didn't want to respond."
Like that girl in high school who thinks she's untouchable, Avery - the NHL's fashionista diva - made sure he wasn't assaulted in the third period. All talk, no walk.
A period earlier, Avery threw down his gloves with an unsuspecting victim - defenseman Matt Carle - and dropped him with four punches, including three of them that were landed after Carle hit the ice. Carle had never fought in his 5-year career.
"I don't know if I'd really call that a fight," Carle said. "I didn't really know what was going on. I had my jersey wrapped over my head and the next thing I knew I was getting punched in the face and I was on the ice."
"You'd like to settle it a different way," said Shelley, the Flyers' enforcer. "I didn't like the way it went down. But you know he's going to try to suck you in. It was a 3-0 game and I didn't want to take a penalty. It took a lot [of restraint]."
Shelley, like the Flyers, kept his composure - through the line brawl with Avery - and through the two goals the Rangers had scored in the third period to preserve a gutty, 3-2 road win at Madison Square Garden last night.
With the win, the Flyers improved to 12-1-1 against Atlantic Division rivals this season with their third straight victory over the Rangers since that epic shootout decided the Flyers' season last April 11.
Despite being pinned in their own defensive zone for more than 10 minutes of the final frame, the Flyers' determined attitude and willingness to block shots preserved the win.
"We were a little scrambly there," Laviolette said. "We're better than that defensively. I think we could've been tighter. But I thought the last 4 minutes, we tightened it down and did what we needed to do to get the win."
The Flyers held a comfortable three-goal edge for almost the first half of the third period before going into an inadvertent "prevent" style defense that nearly cost them the game. They posted just three shots in the third period on Rangers goalie Marty Biron, the fewest they've had in any single period this season.
Wojtek Wolski, acquired earlier in the week by New York, squeezed a shot behind Brian Boucher with 10 minutes, 47 seconds to play, which snapped what would have been the Flyers' first shutout of the season. Derek Stepan scored just 2 minutes later to put the Flyers on the defense.
"It's a tough way to play," Laviolette said. "They really picked up the game and we stopped playing offensively. The minute you sit back and just try and defend, you're going to find yourself in trouble. We needed to continue to play the game, but all we tried to do was defend. That's going to put you in your zone a lot.
"We just needed to get control of the game again and slow it down."
Then, in the final 5 minutes, the Flyers finally started limiting New York's chances.
"We made it interesting, but we got the win and finished it off," Mike Richards said. "To settle down and not throw pucks away, it's good to see. They maybe had two or three chances [late] and 'Boosh' made the saves. We've been good at closing hockey games out this season and [last night] was another example of that."
Now, with the win in their pocket, the Flyers have a little more than a month until they make their next pilgrimage to Madison Square Garden to allow Avery's antics to stew and for the more "experienced" high schoolers who go to the next base.
"That's the kind of player he is," Carle said. "That's certainly not going to be me getting back at him. I know Jody was pretty upset in between periods with what happened. We'll see what happens."
With the win, the Flyers closed out an important 10-game stretch with a 7-3-0 record, impressive when you consider that nine of those 10 were away from the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers have played just one home game since Dec. 20.
"There was a chance you finished these 10 games and have dug yourself a hole," Laviolette said. "We didn't do that. We gained a little bit of territory."
"This was a big game and we wanted to get it," said Boucher, who made 34 saves. "We were able to hold them off. We're happy with where we're at, but we know there's still a lot of work to be done."
Mike Richards' eventual game-winning goal, which was shorthanded, was the Flyers' first shorthanded goal since Nov. 24 in Minnesota. The Flyers' seven shorthanded goals ties them for second-most in the NHL . . . The Flyers' 33 hits last night were the most as a team since Nov. 16, a span of 25 games . . . They also blocked the most shots (24) since Nov. 6, a span of 30 games . . . Andrej Meszaros increased his league-leading plus/minus rating to plus-27.
In Toronto, former Flyers goalie Ray Emery is in the final stages of his 4-month rehab after an intensive bone-graft operation to cure avascular necrosis in his hip, as ESPN.com reported over the weekend. The report said Emery is close to getting the green light to return.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said last month that he would consider giving Emery a shot with the Phantoms in the AHL, though that seems less likely now with Michael Leighton and Johan Backlund holding down the fort in Adirondack.
In the final stages of his rehab, none other than old friend Eric Lindros has been firing pucks on Emery daily to help him get ready. Small world, eh?
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at
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