Stepan scores two in third period as Rangers beat Flyers

New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the Philadelphia Flyers. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

NEW YORK — Once the expected fighting was out of the way, the New York Rangers got another victory against the Flyers at Madison Square Garden.

Derek Stepan scored twice in the third period to lead New York to a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday night, the Rangers’ 11th win in the last 12 meetings at home.

Derick Brassard scored early and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 shots as the Rangers improved to 5-0-1 in their last six games and beat the Flyers for the third time in five meetings this season.

Brayden Schenn spoiled Lundqvist’s shutout bid with 9.7 seconds left in the third period with his 16th goal of the season on the power play.

"What matters to me is that we win games," said Lundqvist, who improved to 28-14-4 this season. "We were being aggressive and played a strong game."

Steve Mason finished with 27 saves as the Flyers lost for the fifth time in six games.

Stepan's first score, at 10:34 of the third, was his 100th career goal. His second made it 3-0 with 6:06 remaining when he rifled his 12th goal of the season past Mason from the left circle.

"We worked hard tonight," said Stepan, who scored for the second straight game after not scoring in eight contests. "We just have to continue to work at that."

Mats Zuccarello got his second assist of the game on the play.

Brassard's goal at 5:08 of the opening period came on a wraparound against Mason with assists to Keith Yandle and Dan Girardi. Brassard tied a career high -- set last season -- with his 19th goal and also tied Zuccarello for the team lead.

The game was tense early as Rangers defenceman Dylan McIlrath and the Flyers' Wayne Simmonds fought 39 seconds into the game. The Rangers made it known they would avenge a punch by Simmonds to the jaw of Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh when the teams met in Philadelphia on Feb. 6. McDonagh has been out of action since with a concussion, missing four games so far.

The rookie McIlrath was clear about his role following the game.

"I wanted to send a message. I wanted to stick up for my teammate, our captain, our best player," McIlrath said. "I can respect him for squaring up with me, and I'm just happy how it all worked out."

Twenty seconds later, Rangers forward Tanner Glass and the Flyers' Ryan White tangled at centre ice in a lengthy bout.

And like the days when the Flyers were known as the Broad Street Bullies and regularly fought the Rangers at the Garden and the Spectrum in Philadelphia, the penalty boxes became more crowded when Philadelphia's Chris VandeVelde and Zuccarello were penalized for cross-checking each other.

The Flyers had a great chance late in the first when Zuccarello was assessed a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Flyers defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere. Lundqvist made several diving saves as the Rangers killed it off.

The game essentially settled down after the early fights though Simmonds was booed each time he touched the puck.

"They wanted to do something about it. That's how hockey goes," Simmonds said about his tussle with McIlrath. "He wanted to fight."

In the second, the Rangers and Lundqvist continued to frustrate the Flyers on the power play. Lundqvist made six saves in the middle period, including an emphatic glove save on Nick Cousins just as the Flyers' fourth power play of the game expired late in the period.

"We had our chances," Flyers leading scorer Claude Giroux said. "We shot a lot of pucks, they were good at blocking them. Their goalie played a pretty good game tonight."

Lundqvist also continued his mastery over the Flyers. He is 17-3-1 overall against Philadelphia starting with a 7-0 shutout at the Garden on March 6, 2011.

"These are fun games, rivalry games and the crowd is into it," Lundqvist added. "As a player, you appreciate that. You get a little more aggressive and fired up to play these games."

The Rangers also continued their season-long dominating play at home, where they are 21-5-3 and 8-0-2 in their last 10. They haven't lost at home in regulation since a 7-3 defeat to Washington on Dec. 20.

The Rangers have a five-point cushion over the third-place New Jersey Devils and six-point lead on the Islanders in fourth. They trail the first-place Washington Capitals by 14 points.

NOTES: Rangers F Rick Nash missed his ninth straight game due to a bone bruise suffered Jan. 22 at Carolina. ... The Flyers recalled former Islanders D Andrew MacDonald to replace the injured former Ranger Michael Del Zotto. ... The Flyers scratched F Jordan Weal, F Sam Gagner and D Brandon Manning.