PHILADELPHIA — Just as they hoped they would, Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers bounced back from a dismal performance.
Matt Puempel scored in his first game with the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist made 40 saves to help New York defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 on Friday.
Derek Stepan and Kevin Hayes also netted goals for the Rangers, who rebounded from Wednesday's 6-1 home drubbing against Pittsburgh. Lundqvist was lifted after allowing four goals on seven shots in the second period of that one, but he responded with a strong performance against the Flyers to improve to 32-13-4 in his career against Philadelphia.
"You just regroup and everybody tried to hold everybody accountable to play their absolute best," Lundqvist said. "When we don't play that well, we want to come back with a better performance. That's what we were looking for.
"It was a good game for us and a good game for me."
Shayne Gostibehere and Chris VandeVelde scored in the third period for Philadelphia, which threatened throughout the final period. The Flyers opened a three-game homestand with a third loss in the last four games.
Stepan gave New York a 1-0 lead in the first period when he beat Steve Mason with a wrist shot from the slot. J.T. Miller set up the goal with an assist from behind the net after a turnover by Philadelphia's Scott Laughton, playing in his second game since being recalled from Lehigh Valley of the AHL.
"You're not going to have your 'A' stuff every night, and the next game is so important," Stepan said.
Stepan has 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) in 30 career games vs. Philadelphia.
Puempel, claimed off waivers from Ottawa on Monday, gave the Rangers a 2-0 advantage 1:34 later with his first goal of the season.
"Good for the kid," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "It's got to help his confidence and it was without a doubt helpful for our team."
A 2011 first-round pick of the Senators, Puempel went without a point in 13 games with Ottawa this season and had just four goals and two assists in 52 career games. But he showed a deft scoring touch when he skated past Philadelphia's Andrew MacDonald, settled a bouncing backhand pass from Jimmy Vesey and buried the puck past Mason from close range.
The first period featured a pair of fights and physical play that is typical of the rivalry.
Philadelphia's Travis Konecny took on Brandon Pirri after Pirri boarded Brandon Manning. Konecny drew an instigation minor in addition to a fighting major to erase a Flyers power-play opportunity.
Chris Kreider got the better of Manning in a fight with 1.8 seconds left in the period.
Hayes extended New York's lead to 3-0 in the second period after another bad Philadelphia turnover in its zone. Mark Streit sent the puck from behind the net to the blue line right on the stick of New York's Nick Holden. Holden passed to a wide-open Hayes in the slot, and Hayes re-directed the puck over Mason's left shoulder for his 10th goal of the season.
VandeVelde got the Flyers on the board early in the third period. MacDonald sent the puck in front and it caromed off VandeVelde's skate past Lundqvist. The play was reviewed but officials allowed the goal.
Gostisbehere's slap shot from the slot with 2:04 left made it 3-2. But Philadelphia couldn't get anything else past Lundqvist.
One of his best saves came midway through the second period when he used his mask to deny Claude Giroux from close range on a 2-on-1 break.
"He played an incredible game," Stepan said of Lundqvist.