It was a scene the Schenn brothers had played out plenty of times on the outdoor rinks in Saskatoon during the long, cold winters on the Canadian prairies.
But this magical moment came in a pivotal Stanley Cup playoff game and what transpired on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden was even better than Luke Schenn imagined as the stay-at-home defenceman delivered the game-winning goal for the Philadelphia Flyers against the New York Rangers.
Seeing the referee raise his arm for a delayed penalty call, Schenn decided to jump into the rush and, after Adam Hall drove to the net but was stopped by Henrik Lundqvist, the puck was lying loose just outside the crease.
Schenn, who had four goals and 12 points in 79 games this season, was first on the scene and calmly went to the backhand at 11:18 of the second period to break a 2-2 tie.
“In the backyard rink, I’ve had a lot of playoff series, but it was nice for it to happen,” Schenn said inside a jubilant Flyers’ locker room after a 4-2 victory that evened the best-of-seven series at 1-1 as the series shifts to the Wells Fargo Center for Game 3 on Tuesday. “It’s pretty exciting but the big thing is to get the win. That’s a huge weight off our shoulders to get the split. Going back home, we’re feeling a bit better about ourselves.”
The Flyers had plenty to feel good about after overcoming a 2-0 first-period deficit and snapping a nine-game losing skid at Madison Square Garden that stretched back to March 6 of 2011.
Martin St. Louis and Benoit Pouliot scored for the Rangers, while Jakub Voracek, Jason Akeson and Wayne Simmonds (into an empty net) also scored for the Flyers, who got another rock-solid effort from backup goalie Ray Emery (31 saves).
In a quiet area away from the larger scrums, Schenn’s younger brother Brayden was grinning ear-to-ear when asked about what had transpired.
“I’m real happy for Luke. He’s not known for his offence but it’s nice for him to chip in with a game-winner,” said Brayden, who had an assist on the tying goal. “He deserves it and I’m happy for him. For him to poke that one in against Lundqvist, you knew it was going to be a big goal and it turned out to be.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of excitement in the Schenn household with him scoring.”
The opportunity to be involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs with his big brother is not lost on Brayden.
“You dream of just making the NHL and, with me drafted by L.A., and him by Toronto, who would have thought we’d end up in Philadelphia,” said the 22-year-old centre who came to the Flyers in the deal that sent Mike Richards to the Kings. “It’s been fun, so far.”
Luke Schenn has faced plenty of scrutiny since joining the Flyers in the deal with the Maple Leafs for talented forward James van Riemsdyk on June 23 of 2012 but, on Sunday, the fifth overall pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft provided nearly 18 steady minutes on a pairing with Andrew MacDonald.
“Before the game, we talked about getting our D more involved,” said Flyers head coach Craig Berube. “(Schenn) did a good job. He was up on the rush there and made a nice play. It was a good goal.”
After going 436 contests before finally reaching the post-season, Schenn is trying to make the most of this first chance to chase Lord Stanley’s mug.
Scoring the decisive marker in his second playoff tilt is something he won’t soon forget.
“I always said it’s better late than never to finally get in there. You’d love to get in every year, but it didn’t work that way for me,” said Schenn, 24. “I’m here now and I’m really enjoying it with these guys. Everyone has got another gear out there. Guys are sacrificing like there’s no tomorrow.
“Obviously, I try to take care of the D-zone first, but it was nice to contribute and in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter who does it. Everyone has got to chip in.”
ATONEMENT DAY FOR FLYER
It didn’t take long for Jason Akeson to get a chance for redemption.
After his double-minor for high-sticking Carl Hagelin opened the floodgates for the New York Rangers in Thursday’s series opener, Akeson delivered a power-play goal at 5:45 of the second period during Game 2 on Sunday that tied the score 2-2 and helped propel the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-2 victory, evening the series at one win apiece.
“It obviously wasn’t a fun thing to go through but you forget about it and move on, you can’t dwell on it,” said Akeson, an undrafted free agent signing from Orleans, Ont,. who has played in only four career NHL games.
The Flyers’ support for Akeson never wavered and the rookie winger came through in Game 2.
“Should I sit out everybody that takes a penalty?” said Flyers head coach Craig Berube. “It was a mistake and you have to learn from them. He’s a good player and he’s played well for us. He’s a skilled guy and he knows how to put the puck in the net.”
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