PHILADELPHIA — The good feeling could not have come crashing down much harder.
Not only did the Rangers suffer a rare loss, 5-2 to the Flyers on Friday night, but also they lost Chris Kreider for what is presumed to be an extended period of time after he broke his foot blocking a shot in the first period.
Kreider, 28, signed a seven-year, $45.5 million extension hours before Monday’s trade deadline, the annual salary-cap hit of $6.5 million preventing him from being dealt and keeping him with the only NHL team he has known. But now the Rangers have to continue this playoff push without him.
The Rangers (35-25-4), who had been on a five-game winning streak and franchise-best nine-game road winning streak, were coming off a 5-2 win at Montreal on Thursday night, and coach David Quinn went back to Alexandar Georgiev in goal against the red-hot Flyers (36-21-7), who have now won six in a row. It was Georgiev’s third straight start since Igor Shesterkin suffered a broken rib in a car accident on Sunday.
Georgiev had some good moments in the opening 40 minutes, but couldn’t keep his team from going into the third period trailing 3-1. That’s when Pavel Buchnevich — very indecisive in his first game back since the traumatic events of the car accident with Shesterkin — took an offensive-zone high-stick penalty.
Claude Giroux got his second goal of the game on the ensuing power play, putting the Flyers up, 4-1. And then old friend Kevin Hayes added his 22nd of the season at 12:56 to make it 5-1.
Brett Howden got one in garbage time for the Rangers, making it 5-2 with 25.3 seconds left.
The game actually started well for the Rangers, with Artemi Panarin making a great outlet pass to Jesper Fast, who was able to swat in his own rebound at 2:49 of the first to take a 1-0 lead.
But with about 7:40 left in the period, Flyers defenseman Philippe Myers let loose a bomb of a slap shot from the right point. Kreider was near the face-off dot and the puck got him on the outside of his left skate, sending him sprawling to the ice.
It wasn’t immediately clear how badly he was hurt. Kreider finished that shift and even took another 10-second shift before heading to the locker room.
The Flyers were able to tie it when Sean Couturier finished one from in front at 16:07, and near the start of the second period, the Rangers announced the shocking severity of Kreider’s injury.
The Flyers poured it on, going up 2-1 when James van Riemsdyk buried a long rebound at 13:00 — following a sequence of horrid officiating from Francois St. Laurent and partner Pierre Lambert. Philadelphia added another goal just over two minutes later when Giroux ripped a one-timer into the top corner from the right circle to give his team a 3-1 lead going into the third period.