Flyers lose Game 1 to Rangers
Jason Akeson's double-minor penalty in the third period is costly in 4-1 defeat.
NEW YORK - The door to the visitors' penalty box at Madison Square Garden opened more than 2 minutes ahead of schedule.
When Jason Akeson, the perpetrator, stepped out onto the ice again, the distinctive roof of Madison Square Garden shook while white rally towels waved furiously in the air.
For Akeson, skating in his first playoff game, there was little he could do but put his head down and return to the bench.
"Nothing good, that's for sure," Akeson said when asked about his thoughts returning to the bench. "It was obviously not a good feeling."
Akeson was only trying to finish a check in the neutral zone 7:35 into a deadlocked third period when he fell backwards, two-handing Carl Hagelin in the face. Welcome to the Stanley Cup playoffs, the only sport where victims struck in the face pray for blood.
The blood dripping from Hagelin's face turned an untimely minor penalty into an automatic 4 minutes. When that penalty-box door opened again, the Flyers' window to steal a game at the Garden closed with it.
The Rangers scored not once but twice while Akeson sat to stew, enough to power New York to a 4-1 win over the Flyers in Game 1 of their best-of-seven, first-round series. It was the Flyers' ninth consecutive loss at Madison Square Garden, dating back to 2011.
"That shift actually, when we took the 4-minute penalty, I thought we were coming," coach Craig Berube said. "But we took the penalty. Obviously, you know what happened. You've got to control your stick - it was careless use of the stick."
This is the 10th time the Flyers have lost Game 1 in a playoff series since 2005. They came back to win the series in four of those first nine. The Flyers are 15-21 in a series all-time when losing the first game.
In the history of the NHL, the Game 1 winner has gone on to take the series 68.7 percent (417-190) of the time.
Game 2 is Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, where the Flyers hope to earn a split before the series shifts back to Philadelphia.
Last night, despite a second period in which they were badly outplayed and outchanced, Game 1 was there for the taking for the Flyers. They entered the third period tied at 1-1 and had a very real chance to make all of their New York woes disappear. But they were outshot 13-1 in the final frame.
"We were in a good position to start the third," Ray Emery said. "We came in here for two games and we'd like to get one. I thought it was going to be that one going into the third. We've got to win one here. We would have liked to have had that one."
Akeson ended up being the goat for the Flyers on a night when many thought it would be Emery, who started in place of the injured Steve Mason. Even Mason may not have stopped the Rangers' three third-period strikes, either backdoor tap-ins or rebounds.
The real story was in the Flyers' offensive lack of production. They ended up with just 15 shots on goal - the fewest they've posted in a playoff game since April 28, 2008, when they had 14 in Montreal but won with Michael Leighton in net.
Claude Giroux did not have a single shot on goal. As a team, the Flyers had nearly as many attempts (15 on net, 16 blocked, 11 that missed) as the Rangers had registered shots on goal (36). And to think, the Flyers actually scored on their first shot on Henrik Lundqvist.
"You're not going to beat Lundqvist with 15 shots," Wayne Simmonds said. "Our plan was to chip pucks in, but as soon as we got pucks in, it seemed like they had three guys there instead of two. We've got to figure that out. They did a good job outnumbering us."
The Flyers executed Craig Berube's game plan perfectly in the first period when Andrew MacDonald's point blast beat Lundqvist. Giroux purposely dumped the puck in Ryan McDonagh's corner and Scott Hartnell hammered the Rangers' star defenseman behind the net to create a turnover and feed MacDonald.
The only problem was that was just about the only time it actually worked. It was almost as if New York was ready for Berube's game plan, moving the puck out of the zone quickly when the Flyers did (rarely) get it deep in the Rangers' end.
"I don't think we had our legs," Berube said. "I don't feel like we skated well enough in any of the periods. We need to skate better. We played too much in our end, gave up too much. We've definitely got to win more battles than we did tonight."
Giroux' line with Hartnell and Jake Voracek totaled just two shots on net. The Flyers didn't even have enough time to work up a healthy hate against Lundqvist because they weren't around his net enough.
"They didn't produce," Berube said. "They didn't shoot pucks, they didn't get shots and they didn't attack. Obviously they weren't getting enough action at the net."
Simmonds said the Flyers "didn't get enough support" to make their forecheck work. At the other end, it seemed the only breaks Emery got were during the television timeouts. MacDonald, who noted the defense can do a better job of thwarting New York's aggressive attack, said those mistakes are "easily correctable."
Until Sunday, at least, the image of a dejected Akeson leaving the penalty box will stick with them.
"You've got to have short memories in this game. If you don't, it will eat at you," Simmonds said. "We've got to play better than that, that's for sure. We have faith in ourselves. We've come back so many times this year, a 1-0 deficit is something we know we can overcome."
Andrew MacDonald became the sixth non-rookie in Flyers history to score his first goal with the team in a playoff game. MacDonald, 27, collected four assists but didn't score in his first 19 games with the Flyers after being acquired from the Islanders on March 4 . . . Claude Giroux has just one assist in five games against the Rangers this season . . . Ray Emery appeared in his first playoff game since April 24, 2011 with Anaheim.