Philadelphia Flyers\' Scott Hartnell battles for the puck with New York Rangers\' Marian Gaborik during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)
NEW YORK, N.Y. - The Philadelphia Flyers delivered key blows in the first period, absorbed some from Sean Avery in the second, and held on in the third to finish a long trip with a win they really wanted against the New York Rangers.
Defenceman Matt Carle did damage early with assists on goals by Jeff Carter and Ville Leino, Mike Richards scored a short-handed goal in the second, and the Flyers escaped with a 3-2 win on Sunday night after the Rangers staged a late comeback try.
"We made it interesting, but we got the win," captain Richards said. "We've done a good job all year, closing hockey games off. Today was no different."
It sure didn't feel the same for Carle, seventh on the Flyers with 23 points—including 22 assists. He covered up during a second-period fight when Avery unloaded on him after a multiplayer dustup near the benches. Carle took several shots to the head in what officially was his first NHL fight in six seasons.
Avery landed a flurry of punches after Carle dropped to the ice.
"I don't know if I would really call it a fight, but that's what it says on the scoresheet," Carle said. "You kind of know what kind of player he is. I didn't really know what was going on. The scrum happened and he kind of came in and tied me up. I had my jersey wrapped over my head. The next thing I know, I was getting punched in the face and I was on the ice."
The Flyers shook that off along with the Rangers' two-goal uprising in the third.
Philadelphia won for the sixth time in seven games and moved one point behind Vancouver for first place overall in the league standings. The Flyers are tied for the NHL lead with 16 road wins (16-5-3), one more than New York.
Many Philadelphia fans made their way north during a holiday weekend to see their team, which has played only one home game since Dec. 20. The Flyers are 7-3 in that span—including 6-3 in the road games—and wrapped up the trip with wins at Atlanta and New York following a 7-5 loss in Boston on Thursday.
Brian Boucher made 34 saves, but wasn't severely challenged until the Rangers rallied on goals by Wojtek Wolski with 10:29 remaining and Derek Stepan 2:24 later.
The only downside for the Flyers was the end of Danny Briere's five-game goal streak.
Carter and Leino scored seconds after the expiration of two power plays in the first, and Richards made it 3-0 in the second with his 23rd career short-handed goal.
Carle took the hardest counter-punches from the Rangers.
"We came here for two points," Richards said. "I'm sure Matt would take a couple of punches to get an important win."
The Rangers wrapped up a rough week in which they lost three times, including twice to Montreal, with a 1-0 win against Vancouver in between. They were done in for the second straight night by a poor first period. Montreal scored all its goals within a 2:46 span of the opening frame en route to a 3-2 win Saturday.
Marian Gaborik has no goals in eight games and only two in 14. New York's star forward was benched in the second period when he had only five shifts, totalling 2:25 of ice time.
"Some guys just need to score a goal to gain some confidence," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We need production from him. We need some of our skill guys to score a goal."
Gaborik has 11 goals and 24 points in 33 games after posting 42 and 86 in his first season with New York.
"Obviously, I haven't produced much lately," he said. "I'm not giving up. I've got to work harder and just try to get out of it.
"I got benched there—coach's decision. Bottom line is I have to produce and help this team win games."
Backup goalie Martin Biron finished with 24 saves. He was pulled for an extra skater with 1:41 left, but the Rangers couldn't get even.
The Flyers are 3-0 against the Rangers this season, earning an earlier pair of 4-1 wins.
Boucher made several pad saves that sent thuds through an arena that was otherwise quiet because of the passive crowd. That made it easy to hear the vocal Flyers supporters sound "Boooosh" chants for the goalie.
Other than Avery's fight with Carle, the biggestcheers were reserved for updates on the New York Jets' NFL playoff victory at New England—until the Rangers rallied.
Carter got the Flyers going when he deflected in Carle's left-point shot as he was left unchecked in the slot at 6:14. Leino doubled the Flyers' lead with 5:06 remaining, taking a crisp feed in front from Andrej Meszaros.
Richards finished a fine passing play with Claude Giroux and notched his third short-handed goal this season to make it 3-0 at 4:25 of the second.
Notes: The Flyers have won four straight against the Rangers, their longest streak in the series since a five-game run during the 2003-04 season. ... Boucher has earned wins in four in five outings. ... The Rangers are 10-2 in the second half of back-to-back games. ... Wolski has two goals in four games with New York—including the winner against Vancouver—since being acquired from Phoenix.