The Philadelphia Flyers didn't have much trouble with the New York Rangers during the regular season, but they got more than they bargained for tonight.
The Rangers, who lost six of seven games to Patrick Division champion Philadelphia during the season, came away with a 6-2 upset victory in Game 1 of the division semifinals tonight at the Spectrum.
The Rangers had two power-play goals from Mike Ridley, two short-handed goals and many clutch saves from goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, who faced 33 shots. New York also killed off eight of nine power plays, including nearly two minutes of five-on-three Flyers advantages.
"They really whomped us during the regular season, but we showed character," Vanbiesbrouck said. "We can't blow this out of proportion, because it's only one game. So I'm not going to get too excited. I don't want to be let down tomorrow."
Flyers Coach Mike Keenan said flatly: "We weren't prepared for the hockey game. This was the worst game we've played since I've coached here. We had chances to score and didn't capitalize.
"I don't think we lost our composure. I don't think we had it to begin with."
Flyers goalie Bob Froese, who has a 0-4 record in postseason play, said: "We've met challenges before. This is just another challenge."
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a power-play goal by Ridley. The rookie left wing, who led the team with 65 points this season, took a pass from Tomas Sandstrom and beat Froese at 5:03.
But the Flyers scored only 45 seconds later. Tim Kerr moved in on Vanbiesbrouck on a breakaway, and the goalie made the initial save with his left pad. But Rich Sutter pounced on the rebound and scored to tie it at 1-1.
The teams exchanged goals again late in the period. Rangers left wing Don Maloney went off for interference at 13:25, but right wing Bob Brooke sent the puck past Froese on a short-handed breakaway at 14:11, giving New York a short-lived 2-1 lead.
The Flyers came right back. Dave Poulin emerged from a scramble in front of the net and beat Vanbiesbrouck at 14:44.
The Rangers dominated the second period, during which they fought off two five-on-three disadvantages and took a 4-2 lead.
Mark Osborne went off at 3:32 for hooking and Maloney followed at 4:18 for interference, giving Philadelphia a two-man advantage for 1:14. The Flyers had several good opportunities, but the Rangers' defense and Vanbiesbrouck's stops kept them from scoring.
Almost as soon as the five-on-three ended, another began. Before Maloney's penalty was over, Ron Greschner went off for cross-checking at 5:42 and the Flyers were up by two men for 36 more seconds. But, again, they could not capitalize.
The Rangers took a 3-2 lead at 8:45 on a power-play goal by Ridley, his second of the game. He took a pass from Sandstrom and swept the puck past Froese, who was falling on his back.
The Rangers added another goal at 10:39 when Sandstrom sent in a shot on Froese that the goalie kicked out with his skate, falling to the ice. Greschner took the rebound and sent it past Froese for a 4-2 lead.
The Flyers thought they had scored a goal with five minutes left when the puck bounced off a Ranger's skate and appeared to cross the goal line. No goal was allowed, and the Spectrum fans booed goal judge Bill Black when, escorted by ushers, he left his seat after the period. They booed him again when he returned.
During the last minutes of the period, the game turned rough, with various players pushing and shoving. Finally, with just over four minutes left, a major altercation broke out. When it was over, the Flyers' Dave Richter and Rick Tocchet and the Rangers' Larry Melnyk and Wilf Paiement had game misconducts.
The Rangers finished off the Flyers with two goals early in the third period. Maloney scored at the 57-second mark for a 5-2 lead, and Kelly Miller added a short-handed score at 6:02. "It's a big game tomorrow. We do have to win," said Flyers defenseman Brad Marsh. "The Rangers know it's going to be a tough series."