PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Stephen Valiquette’s first NHL start in almost four years seemed as though he was playing in a computer game.
“When we came in here and looked at Philadelphia’s lineup, I felt like I was looking at `NHL ’92,”’ Valiquette said. “I used to play video games as a kid. It seems like they have an All-Star team over here. I was really excited to play against this team and see what kind of a game I had.”
Valiquette was recalled from Hartford of the AHL after Mike Dunham bruised his shoulder during the first period of a 4-2 loss to Nashville on Thursday. He was obtained from the Edmonton Oilers on March 3 as part of the trade for Petr Nedved.
He went 2-0 for the New York Islanders in 1999-2000, recording a 2-1 win at Ottawa in his last start on April 6, 2000.
“This was really a big thrill for me,” said Valiquette, whose only other NHL action this season was 14 minutes of relief work with the Oilers. “Coming into Philly was obviously a momentous challenge. I was ready for it. I felt like I was a kid who studied well for a math exam. I felt like I put my work in and I was ready to play.”
The Flyers missed a chance to increase their four-point Atlantic Division lead over idle New Jersey. The Devils have four games left, one more than Philadelphia.
New York coach Tom Renney was impressed with the performance of his 6-foot-5 goalie.
“I thought he played really well,” Renney said. “He just seemed to have a good focus on the puck and was able to see it coming to him for the most part. He’s a big guy. His style is conducive to what we think are the needs of a National Hockey League goaltender.”
The Rangers also got goals from Josh Green and Bobby Holik as they built a 3-0 lead. New York captain Mark Messier was eligible to come back following a two-game suspension for spearing, but he didn’t make the trip because of an elbow injury.
Tony Amonte scored the only goal for Philadelphia.
“I thought our last 30 minutes were extremely strong,” Flyers forward Jeremy Roenick said. “We can’t put ourselves in this situation of being down early in the game.”
The Rangers then scored twice within a span of 2:08 early in the second to chase Esche, who had his second straight poor outing.
Green made it 2-0 at 1:05 of the period. Left alone to the right of the net, he hammered in a rebound after Esche made the initial save on a shot by Jamie Lundmark.
Sean Burke replaced Esche after Holik scored on a slap shot from just inside the blue line on a power play.
Esche, who allowed three goals on 11 shots, was also shaky in a 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday.
“I am not happy with any goal I give up,” Esche said. “I know the type of goalie I am capable of being. I have to get back to that.”
Amonte got the Flyers to 3-1 with his 20th goal at 13:24 of the second, scoring from the left of the crease after taking a pass from behind the netfrom Simon Gagne.
The Flyers took the season series with the Rangers 5-1. … Philadelphia LW Radovan Somik returned after missing six games with a fractured cheekbone. … Jagr has scored goals in three straight games. … The Rangers’ last win was 2-0 in Atlanta on March 9. … New York came into the game 29th in the NHL in penalty-killing but blanked the Flyers’ league-leading power play insix attempts. … Philadelphia recorded 21 shots in the third period.