The turning point in Game 3 -- and we may look back on it as the turning point in this playoff series -- occurred with three minutes, 58 seconds left in the second period.
Derek Dorsett was in the penalty box for charging and the Flyers were on their fourth power play, trailing the Rangers, 3-1.
They had looks. They had movement. They had the Rangers spread out. And still, New York blocked four power-play shots.
Only two Flyer shots got through -- Scott Hartnell’s from 17 feet and Jason Akeson's failed tip-in. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist handled both.
“Just very desperate,” Rangers forward Brad Richards said of the effort. “Any loose pucks they seemed to not give them rebound shots, open shots, sticks were on pucks, good clears. They took a little bit of momentum a couple times where we turned pucks over at the wrong places, but besides that we played a pretty ugly game.”
In all, the Rangers blocked 28 Flyers shots during their 4-1 victory (see story). During the entire regular season, only once did the Flyers have more shots blocked -- Toronto blocked 30 on March 8.
Together with 20 missed shots, there were 48 Flyers shots that never reached Lundqvist in addition to the 32 that did.
Among their five power plays in Game 3, the best the Flyers could do was get four shots. That won’t cut it (see story). Especially in a playoff series.
“They’ve played like that forever, so we know that we’re going to have to work for a lot of shots to get through their defensemen and on to Lundqvist,” Jakub Voracek said.
“Sometimes it’s very hard to get it through. That’s why we have so many blocked shots, because they get in the lane pretty well. That’s something we’ve got to work on, and hopefully when we get those chances on Friday we can bury them.”
The Rangers give you the illusion a lane is there to either pass or shoot and by the time you take it, it’s gone. One thing the Flyers have not been able to do in this series is move the puck quickly and accurately east to west for one-timers.
All these blocked shots have made the Flyers readjust their shooting and passing angles.
“On the power play, we have to move the puck quicker than we are,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “It’s too predictable. What we’re doing with [Claude] Giroux and [Kimmo] Timonen, we've got to move it around more, get it in Voracek’s hands more.
“There’s different things we can do. We can make adjustments. We had a lot of zone time with the puck. They did a good job with the puck, but we've got to get it to the net and we didn’t. If you don’t get it to the net, you don’t score. We've got to fake. A little deception here and there.”
Among the Flyers’ five power plays, the Rangers accumulated 10 blocks. Think about that. The Flyers had four shots reach the net and 10 disappeared. That’s a bad ratio that has to change for Game 4 with the extra man.
“Well, we try and get the pucks through to the net, especially on the power play, they do a good job there,” Timonen said. “We have to do it better.
“They blocked way too many shots and we have to find a way to do it quicker and better. When we do get the pucks through there is always a scoring chance.”
Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said he was impressed that as frustrating as it was for the Flyers, they kept trying to get shots on Lundqvist.
“They’re not a team that’s just going to give up and roll over,” Girardi said. “They keep coming, they kept shooting, we know they’re just not going to give up and they kept coming to the final buzzer and we’ve got to expect a big effort for them going into Game 4.”
Lundqvist felt the biggest difference in the game was all those sticks preventing all those shots from ever reaching him. The irony is, the Flyers still outshot the Rangers, 32-20.
“That’s huge, obviously, when guys pay the price like that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s tough mentally for the other team when you try to get going and guys are just throwing themselves in front of the puck and stop it.”
That late second-period power play stood out in Lundqvist’s mind as a key in Game 3.
“It’s a big part of the game right now to pay the price like that,” he said. “I think it brings a lot of energy to the group when you see a big block like that because every play matters right now. Every play, even though it’s a 3-1 game. If they score it can change everything.”