Rangers score 4 in the 1st for unbeaten Rangers

October 11, 2008 7:22:09 PM PDT
Nikolai Zherdev scored the first of four first-period goals, and the New York Rangers remained unbeaten and are off to their best start in 25 years with a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night. Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin heard a mixture of those infamous Philly boos and some polite applause when she walked onto the ice to briefly trade politics for pucks. Palin, the Alaska governor, waved to the crowd and smiled as she dropped the puck between Mike Richards of the Flyers and Scott Gomez of the Rangers. She shook hands with Richards and shared a quick embrace and kiss on the cheek with Gomez - who is from Alaska.

The orange-clad fans needed little time in the Flyers' season opener to turn their rancor toward a more familiar target. Zherdev scored his second goal in two nights only 4:12 into the game, the Rangers scored three more quick ones and Flyers goalie Martin Biron was booed off the ice when he was pulled late in the period.

Blair Betts, Fredrik Sjostrom and Michal Rozsival scored goals for Rangers. The Rangers won in Philadelphia for the eighth time in the past nine games and are off to their best start since they were 5-0 in 1983-84.

Scott Hartnell, Simon Gagne and Mike Richards all scored goals for the Flyers. Gagne made his return from lingering effects of a concussion and played his first game since Feb. 10. The former All-Star forward received a huge ovation when he knocked in a goal late in the second period that sliced New York's lead to 4-2.

The Rangers got 25 saves from Flyers-stopper Stephen Valiquette. Notoriously tough on the Flyers, Valiquette improved to 5-1-1 against them. Not bad considering the backup has only 10 career victories.

The Rangers showed no signs of slowing down and immediately took it to the Flyers a night after a win over Chicago. New York got a head start on the season last weekend with a two-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Czech Republic.

Betts scored from the slot for his first goal in 41 games and Sjostrom followed 63 seconds later with a wraparound that stunned Biron. Once Rozsival scored to make it 4-0, Flyers coach John Stevens benched his playoff-star goalie for Antero Niittymaki. Biron's play last season was a reason why the Flyers advanced to the Eastern Conference finals and had hopes of contending for their first Stanley Cup since 1975.

Niittymaki was flawless in relief and kept alive hopes of a comeback. Gagne scored in the waning moments of the second period, and Richards, picked as the 17th captain in Flyers history, slid the puck past Valiquette midway through the third to send the faithful into a frenzy.

Instead, the Flyers couldn't do anything against Valiquette with a two-man advantage for 1:33 later in the third and he held on for his first win since March 2 against - you betcha - the Flyers.

Notes: Cathy O'Connell of Erdenheim, Pa., joined Palin on the ice as the winner of a team promotion for the "Ultimate Hockey Mom." Last month, Palin visited a Philadelphia bar with Flyers owner Ed Snider, who has donated money to Republican presidential nominee John McCain's campaign. ... There were no apparent signs of protest outside the arena. One fan held a sign that read "Vote Obama" behind New York's net, and a few others held "Obama-Biden" signs behind Palin.


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