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Flyers damage Rangers' playoff hopes

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- If the Philadelphia Flyers don't make the playoffs, they'd like to take the New York Rangers down with them.

Brayden Schenn, Erik Gustafsson, Kimmo Timonen and Jakub Voracek scored goals, Steve Mason stopped 38 shots, and the Flyers beat the Rangers 4-2 Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan scored for the Rangers, who fell into a tie for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with the Winnipeg Jets.

"We just couldn't solve Mason," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We developed some offense; we couldn't solve Mason."

The Flyers (19-21-3) are five points behind the Rangers (21-17-4) and Jets (22-19-2) with five games remaining. Philadelphia is on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and the second time in 18 years.

The Rangers had dominated the series lately, winning 10 of previous 11 meetings.

"I think we played with a lot more speed than we did before in the last two games," Voracek said. "We were really coming at their defensemen with a lot of speed in the neutral zone, and we played smart hockey. We didn't make many mistakes, and when we made a mistake, we made sure to stop it, so that was a big part."

Acquired from Columbus earlier this month to take the load off Ilya Bryzgalov and challenge for the starting job next year, Mason was excellent against the Rangers.

He made outstanding glove saves on Dan Girardi and Stepan and another one on Zuccarello in the third. Mason became the first Flyers goalie other than Bryzgalov to earn a win this season.

"The last three years in Columbus have been a drain from a mental standpoint," said Mason, a former Rookie of the Year. "There have been so many negatives there, so to come here and get a fresh start with a new organization and new teammates, it's just a breath of fresh air. I'm really looking forward to it and savoring it."

Coming off a 7-3 win on Monday night in Montreal that kept their slim playoff hopes alive, the Flyers jumped ahead 2-0 in the first period.

Schenn got it started with his first goal in six games. A lucky bounce helped Brandon Manning register an assist on the play for his first NHL point. On the breakout with Schenn, Manning took a shot that hit a Rangers stick and bounced right to Schenn, who lifted a shot past goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Gustafsson made it 2-0 later in the first by snapping a one-timer through Lundqvist's legs. It was Gustafsson's third goal in eight games and second in two nights after not getting any in his first 14 games.

"We can't be focusing on that," captain Claude Giroux said about Philadelphia's dire playoff chances. "We have to be focused on what we have to do every game. Of course we'd love to have help from the other teams, but games like tonight are the games you have to win. Teams that are in the same race, we just have to focus on us and just try to get better."

The Rangers cut it to 2-1 on Zuccarello's goal early in the second. Zuccarello took a pass from John Moore, streaked down the left side and fired a shot between defenseman Oliver Lauridsen's legs and past Mason for his first goal since returning from the KHL.

Timonen blasted a one-timer to beat Lundqvist and give the Flyers a 3-1 lead at the midpoint of the second period.

Stepan got a fluky goal to get the Rangers within 3-2 with 12:32 left. His shot in front bounced around and trickled by Mason for his 15th goal.

However, Mason preserved the lead, and Voracek's empty-netter was his career-high 19th goal of the season.

"Every game is a playoff game; we know that," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "It's so tight battling for that playoff spot. Every point is really important right now. We have to put this behind us, and we got another huge game Thursday (against the visiting Florida Panthers). We can't dwell on it. We have to move forward."

Lundqvist, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, has been spectacular after a subpar start. He finished with 18 saves. Lundqvist had allowed two goals or fewer in 12 of the previous 13 games, going 8-3-2 with a 1.66 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in that span.

NOTES: Flyers defenseman Bruno Gervais will have season-ending surgery Thursday to repair a torn stomach muscle. Another defenseman, Kent Huskins, missed the game after sustaining a concussion on Monday. ... Mason made his first home start for Philadelphia. ... Lundqvist entered with a .948 save percentage in April. ... A moment of silence was held before the game to honor the victims of the Boston bombings.
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