Flyers return home to save series
PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers are where they want to be as they try to climb out of a postseason hole they must escape or see their season end.
Back home again, in Philadelphia for Game 6.
But with the way the Flyers have played against the New York Rangers, the locale might not matter much. The Rangers have dominated the Flyers through five games en route to a 3-2 lead and can close out the series Tuesday night.
The Flyers returned to practice Monday with the belief they can pull off what seems improbable and win two straight games to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"We’re home, we can be better, guys were loose," Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "Looks good to me."
Starting with captain Claude Giroux, the Flyers have to play better against a Rangers team coming off a 4-2 win Sunday. Giroux, third in the NHL in points, failed to even take a shot in the first two games of the series and finally scored a goal in the waning minutes of Game 5. Scott Hartnell was dumped off the first line in Game 5 when the Flyers made their final, futile push on Henrik Lundqvist, and Wayne Simmonds has made little offensive impact.
Using speed and a defense that has clogged the lane, the Rangers have blocked 90 shots over the first five games, including a whopping 28 in Game 3. The Flyers are only averaging 24.6 shots per game, and the minimal pressure on Lundqvist has allowed the Rangers to take control.
"Sometimes you worry way too much about what they do and how many shots they block," Timonen said. "Who cares? Just go out and do your job and we’re going to be fine."
New York is 13-2 in series it has led 3-2, but the Rangers have lost 11 straight games in which they had a series lead. Philadelphia is 7-10 in Game 6 when trailing 3-2.
The Rangers haven’t won a postseason series in less than seven games since a 4-1 win against New Jersey in 2008. They’ve rallied from two 3-2 series deficits since ‘08, so they know just how a Game 6 victory can swing the momentum back to the victors. The Rangers would rather close out this series and not have to worry about a return to New York for Game 7.
The Flyers went 0-2 during the season at the Garden and are 1-2 there during this series.
"I’ve tried not to think of it that there is another opportunity," Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "You’ve got to approach it as maybe this is our last shot at it, too. You’ve got to make sure you’re just playing the game, playing it the right way, not thinking about the whole situation too much. Just preparing yourself, doing what you need to do to get ready to play a game, trying to win one hockey game."
Lundqvist is one goalie any team would pick to win a playoff game. Lundqvist, an eight-time All-Star and 2012 Vezina Trophy winner, has stopped 93 percent of his shots through five games and been aided by a Rangers offense that has scored first in four straight games.
"It’s kind of fun when it’s a do-or-die situation and it’s all on the line," he said. "At the same time, you want to make sure you keep playing beyond this series. Your focus is just on tomorrow, and that’s it. Then whatever happens after that, you deal with it then.
"Every game now is fun. You try to enjoy the moment, you try to see it as a great opportunity instead of a lot of pressure and a must win. Just go out there and enjoy it and play as hard as you can."
Steve Mason will have to be sharp in net for the Flyers, just as he was for his 37-save effort in Game 4 that evened the series. He was far less effective in Game 5, stopping only 18 of 21 shots.
"We can’t be scared out there, we’ve got to go out there to win," Simmonds said.
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