New York Rangers Sean Avery (16) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal during the third period of the NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Sunday, March 15, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Mary Altaffer
NEW YORK - Sean Avery shook up the Philadelphia Flyers with his grit and gift of gab. And just when they had enough of that, he beat them with his stick.
Avery scored two power-play goals and drew a pair of penalties to lead the New York Rangers to a 4-1 victory over the Flyers on Sunday.
"He gets the puck, and five guys on their team want to kill him," linemate Scott Gomez said.
Avery has scored in three straight games and has four goals in that stretch. As it was during his first stint with the Rangers, before he was banished by the Dallas Stars for crude public comments, New York performs better with him in the lineup (4-2).
"The first couple of games I was just so nervous, kind of playing a little too hard," Avery said. "I'm just trying to slow it down, think about the plays and where they're going to end up.
"I feel good as far as just being happy that I'm out playing, and trying to play hard and help the team win. I've gotten some good bounces and I've gotten some good passes. It's tough to explain. Obviously, the team playing better is something that helps a lot."
Nik Antropov also scored a man-advantage goal for the Rangers, who matched their season high with three power-play tallies on nine chances and split a weekend home-and-home series with the Flyers.
"They took way too many penalties to be able to win this game, and our power play was outstanding," said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 24 saves.
New York, which began the day eighth in the Eastern Conference, moved to within four points of fourth-place Philadelphia. The teams have two meetings remaining.
Fredrik Sjostrom scored a wraparound goal at even strength to make it 4-1, giving the Rangers their fifth win in nine games (5-3-1) since John Tortorella replaced fired coach Tom Renney.
Tortorella's 244th NHL win moved him into a tie with Peter Laviolette for the most victories by a U.S.-born coach.
Lundqvist earned his 31st win, allowing only Simon Gagne's power-play goal in the second. He was already the first goalie to post 30 victories in each of his first four NHL seasons.
Avery staked the Rangers to a 1-0 lead in the first period and added his second in the third while New York enjoyed a five-minute power play.
Flyers defenceman Braydon Coburn was ejected in the closing seconds of the second after hitting Antropov in the head with his stick near centre ice, drawing a match penalty. New York scored only once on the advantage, but coupled with Andrew Alberts' charging infraction on Avery, Philadelphia was short-handed for the first seven minutes of the third.
"It was retaliation," Coburn said. "I was kind of protecting myself.
"I thought he was going to come at me again."
Avery has four goals in seven games since rejoining New York, topping the three he had in 27 games earlier this season with Dallas. He got under the skin of Flyers forward Jeff Carter, who was called for hooking him in the first period.
"His probation period is over and now he's back to his old antics and we got sucked in," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "He obviously had a game plan.
"Give him credit. That's what he does best."
One day after Martin Biron made 39 saves in beating the Rangers, he gave way to backup Antero Niittymaki, who stopped 35 shots.
"It's an emotional game every time we play the Rangers," Coburn said. "We were trying to match their intensity and they were trying to match ours."
Antropov gave New York its second one-goal lead 8:27 into the second when he snapped a shot in off the post from the right circle.
New York grabbed a 1-0 edge in the first period for the second straight game. Avery got his stick blade on Derek Morris's shot in front and tipped the puck under the crossbar, popping up the water bottle with two minutes left. He went into his trademark arm-pumping glide in celebration.
"He's very underrated as a player," Rangers captain Chris Drury said. "He's skilled and people are starting to realize how good he is besides all the other stuff.
"Rather than booing us they're chanting 'Avery.' I'll take that any game."
The Rangers had 14 straight failed power-play chances before Avery broke the drought. Antropov's goal gave them two man-advantage goals for the second time in six games after they had gone 16 straight without doing it.
Gagne tied it for the Flyers 4:32 into the second. Avery got to a loose puck in front to make it 3-1 at 2:45 of the third, and Sjostrom closed the scoring with 9:49 left.
Notes: It was the Rangers' 150th consecutive home sellout. ... Antropov has three goals in six games since being acquired from Toronto. ... Philadelphia is 7-4-3 in the second half of back-to-back games. New York improved to 7-5-1.
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