NEW YORK -- The game was tied at 2 heading into the third period.
The Flyers, though they’d sat back some in the middle stanza, had been having success in third periods in recent days. They had a real shot at escaping Madison Square Garden with a much-needed two points for the first time in more than two years.
Until a pair of late line-change gaffes gave the Rangers all the space they needed to capitalize.
Sniper Rick Nash bested Ilya Bryzgalov on both miscues, and the Flyers watched the game -- and their .500 record -- slip away. They lost, 4-2 (see game recap).
“These games, it’s 2-2 going into the third period, these games usually come down to a bad change or a turnover,” Kimmo Timonen said. “We can’t do those kinds of mistakes in these kind of games. It bites you in the ass, and that’s what happened today.”
As coach Peter Laviolette put it: The Flyers simply shot themselves in the foot.
All the good work they’d put in through the first period and much of the second, all the strong forechecking by the second line of Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Danny Briere was all for naught. Two poorly timed changes erased all of the good in a matter of seconds.
“Things like that can’t happen,” Simmonds said. “You’ve got to keep the game simple, and maybe keep one guy out there or something like that. That was the difference.”
On Nash’s final goal at 11:42, which zapped what little fight remained from the Flyers, Luke Schenn chose a bad time to head to the bench, and his teammates got caught. Nash skated in on a breakaway, and Bryzgalov had no chance.
It was a simple but inexcusable error.
But the good news, Timonen said, is that it’s one that should be easy to correct -- quickly.
“To me, those are mental,” Timonen said. “Mental issue, not system issue. It’s reading the play and staying on the ice when you can’t change. Those things should be easy to fix. But it’s more mental than if you’re tired, you still can stay out there. Sometimes it’s reading a play, sometimes it’s a turnover which causes it, a bad change.
“But it cost us the game today, and we’ve got to learn from it.”
The Rangers struck first Tuesday, when right wing Ryan Callahan beat Bryzgalov just 1:30 after the first puck had dropped.
But the Flyers answered back, with Simmonds and Jakub Voracek helping the Flyers pull ahead to a 2-1 lead. They picked up steam as the period continued, putting on one of their strongest first-period efforts of the season.
Until Callahan sent the puck past Bryzgalov for the second time -- with just 41 seconds left on the clock.
It deflated them.
“Big time,” Scott Hartnell said. “We’ve talked about it, to play 60 minutes and how anytime you let in a goal the first shift or the first minute of a game, or last minute of any period, it gives the other team momentum.
“I think the second period was an average period for us, and they had a lot of speed during that third period, they looked I don’t know if was more fresh or a little bit more legs than us, but a couple of bad changes by us got them a couple of goals.”
Scary moment for Staal
With 14:13 left in the third period, Timonen took a shot from the point that was deflected by Voracek and straight into the right eye of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal.
Staal collapsed and writhed around violently on the ice as the full house at Madison Square Garden went almost silent.
“You can feel that it took the life out of the bench a little bit, and the whole crowd,” Callahan said. “It’s a scary moment, but I haven’t seen him yet so I hope he’s doing OK.”
Staal wasn’t wearing a visor.
Tuesday’s loss was the Flyers’ sixth loss in a row at Madison Square Garden. They haven’t won in “The World’s Most Famous Arena” (no, really, that’s its official nickname) since Feb. 20, 2011.
“It just seems like it’s always tight-checking games,” Simmonds said. “They obviously always end up finishing stronger than we do. Obviously, you’re not going to win like that.”
Voracek, Simmonds see streaks continue
Voracek and Simmonds each had a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s loss.
Simmonds scored for the third consecutive game. He’s now had a goal in four of his last five games and five of his last seven. Before Tuesday, he had scored the game-winner in each of the Flyers’ last three victories.
Voracek has at least a point in eight of his last nine games, and a total of seven goals and 10 assists during that stretch. He leads the Flyers with 27 points.
The win was Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s 24th over the Flyers in his career. The Flyers have only beat him twice the last 12 times they’ve faced him. … Voracek (6) and Simmonds (4) combined for 10 shots on goal, or 40 percent of the team’s total shots of 25; Giroux was held without a shot of any kind. … Every skater on the Rangers’ roster was credited with a hit. For the Flyers, Luke Schenn, Max Talbot and Zac Rinaldo each recorded five hits. … Tuesday’s game was the Flyers’ 24th, officially marking the halfway point of their season. … Callahan now has 15 goals in 30 career games against the Flyers.