Flyers miss opportunity

DAVID W. UNKLE -- For SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- The Wachovia Center faithful were primed for two key match-ups in Thursday night's tilt between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers.

The main event, gold medallist Henrik Lundqvist against silver medallist Antero Niittymaki never came to fruition.

Lundqvist was a healthy scratch and Niittymaki backed-up Robert Esche, a supposed case of the stomach flu had the 25-year-old Finn on the bench for the second straight game.

So with each tick of the clock, the 19,682 fans waited to see which Flyer would take a run at Darius Kasparaitis.

The Rangers defenceman pretty much sealed his own fate, wasting little time in making contact with Peter Forsberg, perhaps forgetting that his hit against Simon Gagne in the Olympic quarterfinals was still fresh in everyone's mind.

Donald Brashear decided to send a message in the game's 58-minute mark, one that was stale by the time it was delivered.

"You can't even do anything anymore," said Brashear, somewhat surprised that you actually get whistled for sucker punching a player. "They changed the rules to favour the superstars."

The 6'2", 235-pound Brashear spun the 5'11, 218-pound Kasparaitis around, clocking him once in the face with his gloved hand with less than two minutes in regulation and down by four goals, en route to a 6-1 loss to the Rangers.

If Brashear wanted "Old Time Hockey" respect, drop the gloves right from the start, have his teammates kill off the penalty, fire up the Flyers and put the Rangers on notice.

Instead, the Flyers spent most of the night preoccupied with Kasparaitis, attempting to resolve their differences the "new NHL" way.

"You can't do anything anymore to set some respect out there," said Brashear. "Teams will keep hitting our guys and then two or three guys get in my face and they call the penalty on me."

"(Kasparaitis) is out there hitting from behind, not getting penalties called, Forsberg took a high stick to the face and it wasn't called," said Brashear, who in the box for three Rangers goals.

"On one end they don't call anything; on the other end of the ice the other ref is calling everything he sees."

Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock delicately danced around the issue stating, "It's a game. There's emotion in the game ... sometime it spills over. When your top goal scorer goes out, everybody sees it."

Asked to define the right way to handle such matters, Hitchcock responded with his own question, "What is the right way? Take out (Jaromir) Jagr?

"I expected maybe a hit but not like that," said Kasparaitis, who curled up in the fetal position after being sucker punched by Brashear.

"First of all, I'm not going to fight him because it's not my game, besides, I'm not going to beat Brashear anyway. By dropping gloves all I'm going to do is get beat up."

"We're going to play to win, not beat up the other team," said Kasparaitis on the night the Rangers padded their Atlantic Division lead to four points with a game in hand.

Asked to assess his fighting skills, Kasparaitis fired back, "maybe I'll take boxing lessons this summer."


Photos