Flyers 3, Rangers 2 (SO): Michal Neuvirth superb in return



NEW YORK — A day before Christmas Eve, the Flyers enjoyed a trip to New York to unwrap their three-day break in style.

And it wasn't without a little chaos, just like the holiday season.

The Flyers took down the Rangers in a shootout, 3-2, Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.

Nolan Patrick netted the only shootout tally while Michal Neuvirth denied all four shots he faced in the skills competition.

The Flyers (15-16-4) are now 3-1-0 under interim head coach Scott Gordon and have won their last five games against the Rangers, outscoring New York 23-9.

Since Nov. 23, the rebuilding Rangers (15-14-6) are 3-6-4 with 10 points in their last 13 games.

• Hey, the Flyers' power play now has goals in back-to-back games thanks to Wayne Simmonds, who handed the Flyers a 2-1 edge early in the third period.

The man advantage hadn't scored goals in consecutive contests since Games 3 and 4 of the season back on Oct. 9-10.

That is hard to believe given the power play looked like one of the clear strengths of the team ahead of the season. However, the unit was ranked 30th in the NHL before the 35th game of the year.

• That lead lasted 22 seconds as Lias Andersson shoved Travis Sanheim off the puck and quickly zipped a pass to Boo Nieves as Neuvirth had no chance for the save.

Sanheim held onto that puck a tad too long in his own end and it cost the Flyers.

• Midway through the first period, Ivan Provorov allowed the puck and Kevin Hayes to get by him along the boards, resulting in an odd-man rush and a point-blank goal for Chris Kreider to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

Much has been made of Provorov looking nothing like his usual steady self.

Just remember, though, he was pinned as the No. 1 defenseman at 21 years old, maybe even before then. He doesn't have any super accomplished veteran to look toward; it's all him.

Let's be patient with Provorov. The mistakes seem to be piling on top of one another at times, but he should be allowed some growing pains, too.

And, no, if anyone is thinking he should watch a game from the press box, that's crazy. He's a kid that learns a lot from playing through his mistakes.

• Because of injuries this season, Neuvirth had played just 1½ games entering Sunday's start and allowed nine goals on 32 shots faced in the limited action.

Against the Rangers, Neuvirth played exceptionally well and made 32 saves on 34 shots. From a pure personal perspective, this had to feel good for Neuvirth, who has made just 45 total starts since the 2016-17 season.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, on the other hand, has never made fewer than 46 starts in a non-shortened season. The 36-year-old came into Sunday with a 35-17-4 record, 2.51 goals-against average and .917 save percentage lifetime against the Flyers.

He stopped 29 shots against the Flyers but couldn't deny Patrick in the shootout.

• Michael Raffl made a solid play to score the 1-1 equalizer 1:46 into the middle stanza. The fourth-liner played the puck to himself to create a 2-on-1 and beat Lundqvist glove side. It was Raffl's first goal since the regular-season finale last year against … the Rangers.

The 30-year-old is such an undervalued player. He's a smart, puck-possession, penalty-kill guy — traits that are so important in your bottom six.

Raffl can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer and might not be a high priority to bring back for the Flyers, making him a possible trade chip ahead of the Feb. 25 deadline for general manager Chuck Fletcher.

• The Flyers will have no practice Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday as part of the NHL-mandated three-day Christmas break.

With no team activities permitted during the hiatus, the Flyers will fly to Tampa Bay, Florida, Thursday morning and play the Lightning at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN.

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