By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
The 2013-14 season started with the firing of a head coach that had previously taken the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final. That was just three games into the season and there were several beyond that where the Flyers just weren’t performing like a playoff team.
It was eight games into the season that Claude Giroux boldly predicted that the Flyers, with a 1-7-0 record at the time, would make the playoffs.
Sure enough, the team rallied in the second half of the season and not only made the playoffs, but jumped into the third seed in the Metropolitan Division. They were set to face off against the New York Rangers. In his first season behind the bench was now Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault.
What ensued was a battle of a seven-game series that featured ups and downs the entire way. Here is a closer look at the Flyers 2014 playoff series against the Rangers.
Game 1: Rangers 4, Flyers 1
The Flyers took an early penalty but successfully killed it off. They got the first goal of the series at 7:28 of the first period on a blast from the point by Andrew MacDonald. In the moments after the goal, Jason Akeson was stopped on a one-timer attempt by Henrik Lundqvist and Ray Emery stood tall on a wraparound attempt by Brian Boyle. Just seconds later, Mats Zuccarello picked up a rebound and put it through the legs of Emery to tie the game at one.
The 1-1 scores held into the third period when Akeson took a four-minute high-sticking penalty that changed the game. On the four-minute power play, the Rangers scored twice, first getting a rebound goal from Brad Richards at 8:22, then striking again 47 seconds later from Derek Stepan on a backdoor pass from Richards.
The Flyers allowed the Rangers to have another power play that greatly reduced their time remaining to tie the game. Kimmo Timonen hit the post with 4:20 to play and the Rangers scored on the ensuing rush with Carl Hagelin picking up another rebound.
Game 2: Flyers 4, Rangers 2
Game 2 couldn’t have started worse for the Flyers. After allowing the final four goals of Game 1, they allowed two quick goals in Game 2 that put them in a 2-0 hole.
After killing off an early Rangers power play, Martin St. Louis scored off a 3-on-2 at 4:08. Back on the power play at 8:22, Benoit Pouliot scored on a one-timer to make it 2-0.
With 5:46 left in the first, the Flyers started their push back into the game, getting on the board on a nice rush by Jake Voracek as he tucked in his chance past the outstretched pad of Lundqvist. On a power play in the second, the Flyers tied the game with Akeson jumping on a rebound at 5:45.
On a delayed penalty call, the Flyers grabbed the lead off a rush as Adam Hall’s shot was stopped but left a big rebound for Luke Schenn and he buried it on the backhand to make it 3-2 with 8:42 left in the second.
The Flyers killed off five of six Rangers power plays in the game and Emery kept them in front the rest of the way. On a power play in the final seconds of the game, Wayne Simmonds scored into an empty net to seal the Flyers victory to even the series.
Game 3: Rangers 4, Flyers 1
The series shifted back to Philadelphia and the Flyers had certainly had some success on home ice against the Rangers, so claiming Game 2 in the house of horrors that Madison Square Garden had become was huge for the Orange and Black. Game 3 did not go the Flyers way from the start.
The Rangers got the first goal of the game at 3:54 of the first after Rick Nash’s sharp-angle shot left a rebound and Stepan was there to bury it. At 10:24, St. Louis deflected a Dan Girardi shot to make it 2-0.
Late in the period, the Flyers got the game back to within one off a rush at 4-on-4. Voracek fed a cutting Mark Streit in the slot and he threw it on goal and by Lundqvist.
But just over five minutes into the second the Rangers were back up by two when Girardi’s one-timer found the net through a screen to make it 3-1.
The Flyers were unable to score on a power play late in the second and another in the third. With time running out in the game, former Flyer Dan Carcillo put the game away with a tip in front to make it 4-1. Emery exited the game after that goal for Steve Mason, who stopped all three shots he faced in the remainder of the game.
Game 4: Flyers 2, Rangers 1
Mason was back in goal for the Flyers in Game 4, but that didn’t change things when it came to slow starts. The Rangers got on the board first at 4:38 as Dominic Moore picked up his own rebound and scored on a wraparound.
The Flyers got an opportune goal at 8:55 when Akeson’s shot went off the endboards and bounced out to Matt Read, who quickly fired and beat Lundqvist to tie the game.
On a power play in the second, the Flyers gained the lead with Voracek deflecting a pass from Brayden Schenn to make it 2-1 at 7:22.
The rest was Mason, who made 37 saves in a 2-1 win that evened the series as things shifted back to New York.
Game 5: Rangers 4, Flyers 2
For the fourth straight game, the Flyers allowed the first goal with Marc Staal striking for the opening tally at 11:53 off a rush on a shot that was low and hand-cuffed Mason.
On a power play early in the second, the Rangers had a potential goal nullified when the whistle was blown with the puck loose in the crease behind Mason, just as St. Louis pushed it into the net. It didn’t matter for the result, with Richards finally jumping on a rebound out of a netmouth scramble at 8:07 and Moore taking advantage of a turnover by Hal Gill to make it 3-0 at 16:20.
The Flyers got on the board on a power play in the final minute of the second period on a one-timer by Vincent Lecavalier that was deflected off a Ranger and past Lundqvist.
In the final two minutes of the game, the Flyers got Mason out of the net and scored on the 6-on-5 with Claude Giroux firing a one-timer to cut the lead to one. That was as close as the Flyers could get as Moore won a race for the puck off a clear and fed to Brian Boyle, who scored into the empty net to seal the result.
Game 6: Flyers 5, Rangers 2
Back at home and needing a win to extend the series, the Flyers got some big performances from the power play. It took just 7:08 for the Flyers to strike on the man-advantage with a rebound goal by Wayne Simmonds.
Simmonds was far from finished in this game, getting another goal on a loose puck at the side of the net to make it 2-0 at 1:32 of the second. The Flyers piled on from there, getting another goal at 14:17 as Erik Gustafsson jumped out of the penalty box and caught up to a loose puck on a breakaway and beat Lundqvist. Just 62 seconds later and back on the power play, Simmonds finished off the hat trick with a deflection in front to make it 4-0.
The Rangers had a goal disallowed early in the third as the puck was pushed into the net with the glove of Boyle, but did get on the board on a rebound chance for Hagelin.
With nothing to lose, the Rangers pulled the goalie with over four minutes remaining and Giroux finished things off with a goal into the empty net. The Rangers added one more tally from Zuccarello in the final minute of the third, but the damage had been done and the Flyers had forced a deciding Game 7 back in New York.
Game 7: Rangers 2, Flyers 1
For a change, this was a game that featured no scoring in the opening period. The Flyers failed to score on an early power play in the second and that set up the Rangers for a chance to strike first. They did at 3:06 with Carcillo finishing in front off a feed from Zuccarello.
The Flyers failed to score on another power play midway through the period and the Rangers struck again shortly after on a very similar play to their first goal with Pouliot finishing off a feed from Derick Brassard.
Lundqvist appeared to be shutting down everything the Flyers had as the game progressed, but the Flyers were finally able to solve him at 4:32 of the third with Akeson scoring from the right circle to make it 2-1.
The Flyers had their chances in the final 15:28 of the third, but were ultimately not able to beat the All-World netminder in a 2-1 defeat that ended their season.
From there, the Rangers went on to get to the Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Kings in five games. It is the formula that many Flyers fans were hoping to see this season. Alain Vigneault had helped get the Rangers into contention quickly and they were able to pad the lineup with budding young players and established veterans.
The Rangers also had the goaltending in the series. For as good as Emery was in Game 2 and Mason in Game 4, the Flyers allowed a number of goals on rebounds in the series. The Rangers traditionally had an opportunistic style of play under Vigneault and used that to their advantage.
The Rangers were also a team built on speed and skill and you could see that in the chances they were able to generate and the transition play they used to force the Flyers into errors and take full advantage of opportunities going the other way.
Ultimately, the series came down to one goal in Game 7 and the Flyers overall struggles in New York at the time. The Flyers had won all three games against the Rangers so far this season, including a 5-3 decision in New York. How things have changed for the Flyers with the former Rangers coach on their side now.
We will continue our Series in Review series next week with the last Flyers playoff series to result in a victory, the Flyers 2012 matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins.