Valiquette’s first career shutout helps Rangers beat Flyers 4-0
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Nothing solves a prolonged road slump for the Rangers quite like making the trip to Philadelphia.
Steve Valiquette made 20 saves in his first career shutout to help the Rangers beat the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, New York’s first road win in more than a month.
“They seem to bring out the best in us and it’s a hostile environment here,” said Rangers coach Tom Renney. “We wanted to make sure we took the crowd out of it and tried to play our game. We had that success tonight.”
Valiquette was hardly tested after the first period but still blanked a Flyers team that hadn’t scored fewer than three goals in a game since Jan. 4 and was on a 12-2-1 streak. He picked up only his third win of the season and first shutout in 21 career games.
“I’m pumped, yeah, but with a 4-0 win, we’re more excited about that as a team than a shutout for me, that’s for sure,” he said.
The Rangers snapped a winless road skid that stretched back to a 6-1 win at Toronto on Dec. 29—Valiquettte’s last victory. They were 0-4-2 on the road since the win over the Maple Leafs and only 1-6-4 since the start of December.
New York avoided its first seven-game road losing streak since an 0-6-1 stretch from Dec. 31, 2001-Jan. 17, 2002.
“It’s obvious that without a win, we’re really in trouble,” Valiquette said.
The Rangers entered the game in last place in the Atlantic, but the win moved them only five points behind the division-leading Flyers (61).
Valiquette only got the start because Renney wanted No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist to be ready for Friday night’s game at New Jersey, another team ahead of the Rangers in the standings.
“As long as we carry it over tomorrow in New Jersey and Sunday in Montreal, then we’re back in the playoff picture and nobody can count us out anymore,” Valiquette said.
The Rangers scored four goals in the first 22 minutes and chased Antero Niittymaki. Niittymaki was 6-1-1 in his last eight games and a brief goalie controversy brewed in Philly. But Niittymaki stopped only eight of 12 shots before he was pulled for Martin Biron.
“It’s everybody, you can’t blame the goalie,” said Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen. “They played better than we did. These games happen. We didn’t work hard today.”
Dawes and Prucha each scored in the first for the Rangers.
Niittymaki strayed almost out to the circle and bit when Dawes faked a slapper. Dawes maintained control of the puck, slipped around Niittymaki and dumped it in the net for his seventh goal.
“I wanted to be aggressive, but I was too excited there,” Niittymaki said.
Dan Girardi’s slapper knocked off Niittymaki and a streaking Prucha was in perfect position to knock in the puck for his seventh goal, quickly quieting the Flyers faithful.
The Rangers never let the crowd become a factor in the normally hostile environment. Drury shot through a screen and scored his 13th goal only 23 second into the second period. Shanahan scored his 17th goal off a 2-on-1 fastbreak only 1:18 later that put the Rangers up 4-0.
The Flyers took only 11 shots after the first period. Their first shot of the third period brought mock cheers from a crowd that thinned considerably from the opening faceoff.
“I don’t know if (Valiquette) had to make more than two hard saves all night,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “That’s just not us.”
Biron will start for the Flyers against Anaheim on Saturday … The Flyers were outshot for the 33rd time in 50 games this season.