Sean Avery scored two power-play goals and drew a pair of penalties in his most effective game of the season to lead the New York Rangers to a 4-1 home-ice victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.
Nik Antropov also scored a man-advantage goal for the Rangers, who matched their season high with three power-play tallies on nine chances and split a weekend home-and-home series with the Flyers.
New York, which began the day eighth in the NHL Eastern Conference, moved within four points of fourth-place Philadelphia. The teams have two meetings remaining.
Fredrik Sjostrom scored a wraparound goal at even strength to make it 4-1, giving the Rangers their fifth win in nine games (5-3-1) since John Tortorella replaced fired coach Tom Renney.
Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves for his 31st win, allowing only Simon Gagne's power play goal in the second. Earlier this week, Lundqvist became the first goalie to post 30 victories in each of his first four NHL seasons.
Avery staked the Rangers to a 1-0 lead in the first period, stretching his goal streak to three games, and added his second in the third period while New York enjoyed a five-minute power play.
"The first couple of games I was just so nervous, kind of playing a little too hard," Avery said. "I'm just trying to slow it down, think about the plays and where they're going to end up.
"He gets the puck, and five guys on their team want to kill him," linemate Scott Gomez said.
Flyers defenceman Braydon Coburn was ejected in the closing seconds of the middle period after high-sticking Antropov near centre ice, drawing a major penalty.
New York scored only once on the advantage, but coupled with Andrew Alberts's charging infraction on Avery, Philadelphia was short-handed for the first seven minutes of the third as it tried to rally.
"It was retaliation," Coburn said. "I was kind of protecting myself. I thought he was going to come at me again."
Off the post
Avery has four goals in seven games since rejoining New York, topping the three he had in 27 games earlier this season with Dallas. He got under the skin of Flyers forward Jeff Carter, who was called for hooking him in the first period.
"His probation period is over and now he's back to his old antics and we got sucked in," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "He obviously had a game plan. Give him credit. That's what he does best."
One day after Martin Biron made 39 saves in beating the Rangers 4-2 in Philadelphia, he gave way to backup Antero Niittymaki, who stopped 35 shots.
Antropov gave New York its second one-goal lead 8:27 into the middle period when he snapped a shot in off the post from the right circle.
New York grabbed a 1-0 edge in the first period for the second straight game against the Flyers. Avery got his stick blade on Derek Morris's shot in front and tipped the puck under the crossbar, popping up the water bottle that sat on top of the net with two minutes left.
He went into his trademark arm-pumping glide in celebration. The Rangers had 14 straight failed power-play chances before Avery broke the drought.
Antropov's goal gave them two man-advantage goals for the second time in six games after they had gone 16 straight without doing it.
Gagne tied it for the Flyers at 4:32 into the second period. With his back to the net in between the circles, Gagne deflected Mike Richards's shot from the right point past Lundqvist.
Avery got to a loose puck in front to make it 3-1 at 2:45 of the third and Sjostrom closed the scoring with 9:49 left.