Garth Snow, benched in the series-clinching win against Buffalo, made 24 saves and John LeClair and Eric Lindros assisted on all three goals as the Flyers beat the New York Rangers 3-1 in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night.
Philadelphia coach Terry Murray, who played Ron Hextall instead of Snow in Game 5 against the Sabres, kept quiet his goalie choice for Game 1 until shortly before the start.
Snow shut out the Rangers until Luc Robitaille scored with just 10 seconds remaining.
The Rangers, who have lost the first game in their last eight playoff series, get a chance to tie the series in Game 2 Sunday in Philadelphia.
Dainius Zubrus and Janne Niinimaa, the playoffs’ leading rookie scorers, got goals a little more than 2 minutes apart early in the first period. Eric Desjardins made it 3-0 in the third period on a shot that actually went in off the skate of a Rangers player.
Snow was at his best and busiest in the third period, as the Rangers pressed to get on the scoreboard.
The Flyers scored on their first shot, and on two of their first three, by doing exactly what they said they would do against nearly unbeatable Rangers goalie Mike Richter: drive toward the net.
LeClair carried over the Rangers line and put a shot toward the net. The puck hit traffic in front of Richter and skidded to Zubrus, who was to the right of the pack.
Zubrus, promoted to the Lindros-LeClair line, chipped a backhander over a fallen Richter only 2:28 into the game. It was his fifth playoff goal.
Niinimaa, who has seven assists in the playoffs, scored his first goal of the postseason on a power play at 4:39 while Alexander Karpovtsev was in the penalty box for tripping.
LeClair set up the scoring play by keeping a clearing attempt in the Rangers zone. Lindros picked up the puck behind the net and hit Niinimaa coming in from the right point. The defenseman one-timed a 15-footer that zipped past Richter’s glove.
Desjardins got credit for a goal at 8:34 of the third period, but his shot from the point actually banked in off the skate of Rangers defenseman Bruce Driver.
Richter entered the game with the best save percentage and goals-against average in the playoffs.
The Rangers had few legitimate scoring chances during the first two periods, as the Flyers gave them little skating room and repeatedly knocked away passes and shots before they reached their targets.
Flyers 3, Rangers 1
N.Y. Rangers 0 0 1 - 1 Philadelphia 2 0 1 - 3
First period-1, Philadelphia, Zubrus 5 (Lindros, LeClair), 2:28. 2, Philadelphia, Niinimaa 1 (Lindros, LeClair), 4:39 (pp).
Third period-3, Philadelphia, Desjardins 2 (Lindros, LeClair), 8:34. 4, New York, Robitaille 4 (Gretzky, Samuelsson), 19:50.
Shots on goal-N.Y. Rangers 6-6-13-25. Philadelphia 8-5-8-21.Power-play opp.-N.Y. Rangers 0 of 4; Philadelphia 1 of 1.Goalies-N.Y. Rangers, Richter 8-3 (21 shots-18 saves). Philadelphia, Snow 8-2 (25-24).A-20,074 (19,511).
Referee-Dan Marouelli. Linesmen-Ray Scapinello, Dan Schachte.
Ice ready in Denver
Complete power was restored to McNichols Arena in Denver about 16 hours after an electric substation blew in the basement of the facility, and officials believe the ice should be fine for tonight’s Colorado-Detroit playoff game.
The power failure left two ice-chillers inoperable for about 90 minutes, making sections of the ice soft during the second period of the Avalanche’s 2-1 victory over the Red Wings on Thursday.
The New York Islanders won’t let other teams speak with general manager Mike Milbury, who numerous reports said was a candidate to become the head coach of the Boston Bruins. Milbury has three years left on a five-year contract he signed upon becoming coach in 1995. He relinquished his bench duties in January.
The Edmonton Oilers, who upset Dallas in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, have rewarded coach Ron Low with a multiyear contract extension.
The Boston Bruins interviewed former Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens coach Pat Burns for the club’s vacant head coaching position.
Veteran NHL defenseman Kevin Lowe, 38, applied for the vacant Montreal Canadiens coaching job, the Montreal Gazette reported.