With two goals from the fourth line, another from a sizzling defenseman and a 30-save performance from Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers tightened their grip on second place in the Metropolitan Division -- and home-ice advantage in the first round -- and inched closer to a playoff berth with a 3-1 dousing of the red-hot Flyers Wednesday night.
Derek Dorsett scored on a backhander from the doorstep in the first period, Ryan McDonagh ripped a wrister over Steve Mason's blocker in the second and Dominic Moore tipped one that trickled through Mason in the third to forge the Rangers' eighth consecutive victory over the Flyers (38-26-7, 83 points) at Madison Square Garden. Jakub Voracek's one-timer with less than two minutes left in regulation spoiled Lundqvist's shutout bid.
Philadelphia is three points behind the Blueshirts (41-29-4, 86), who have won five straight and six of seven and leave Thursday for a four-city road trip to Western Canada and Colorado.
"It's huge, it looks like they might be one of the teams we could match up with in the playoffs," Dorsett said. "We wanted to set the tone and I think we did that."
The atmosphere on the ice -- and in the stands -- was far more genteel than expected given the rivalry and the history between the clubs. There were no fights, although Wayne Simmonds and Marc Staal had to be separated late in the second period and Simmonds slashed McDonagh in the hand with 3.9 seconds left.
In the third, Moore's tip of Kevin Klein's shot at 7:39 put away the Flyers, who seemed to sag after McDonagh's goal at 5:34 of the second.
McDonagh's 14th of the season came when he kept the puck in at the blue line, took a few strides and ripped a shot into the top right corner over Mason's blocker.
"Guys need to step up when a guy [Chris Kreider] goes down with an injury and it's even bigger this time of the year," Staal said. "It's always nice. Mac truck [McDonagh] is on fire, you give him the puck, he's putting everything in."
Lundqvist, who said before the game that he was done talking about breaking franchise records, robbed Adam Hall with his right pad on a putback in front, preventing a goal that might have given the Flyers life.
One mistake cost the Flyers the lone goal of the first. Mason swung the puck around the corner and Kimmo Timonen couldn't corral it on the wall. Brian Boyle grabbed the puck and threw it in front, where Dorsett sticked it down and flipped it past Mason, who was 4-0-1 in his career against the Rangers, at 8:41. It was Dorsett's first goal since Dec. 20, although he missed 18 games with a broken leg.
"Coming back from the leg injury and then being in and out of the lineup, it felt good to get that goal," Dorsett said. "It'll help with the confidence."
The Rangers' power play (3-for-34) continued to struggle. In the end, it didn't matter. The home team has won each of the four games this season, which is why home ice may matter in the postseason, should the teams meet.