The New York Rangers squeezed out a victory in the 2012 Winter Classic yesterday. The Philadelphia Flyers stormed out of the gates in the first period, controlling play and getting the better scoring chances but Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist managed to keep his team in the game despite being outshot 12-9 and the first period ended with the game still scoreless.
The second period was even more Flyers offense as they outshot the Rangers 14-8. Philadelphia broke the scoreless tie at 12:26 of the 2nd period when Brayden Schenn picked a memorable time to get the first goal of his NHL career on a rebound of a Matt Carle wristshot from the left point.
Not even two minutes later at 14:21, Flyers superstar center Claude Giroux took a great pass from Max Talbot on an odd man rush and roofed a backhander over Lundqvist’s right shoulder.
As hockey fans know, the first shift after a goal is very important in keeping or stealing the momentum of the game and that is exactly what happened. Only 30 seconds after Giroux gave the Flyers and the heavily Philadelphia-favored hometown crowd a seemingly comfortable two goal lead, Rangers fourth liner Mike Rupp skated left and shot right as he cut across the top of the circles and whipped a wristshot past Flyers backup goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky got the somewhat surprising nod to start in nets for Philadelphia over number one goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov has struggled in recent games and maybe this highly visible benching will get him back on track.
Rupp’s goal seemed to give new life to the New York Rangers as the period ended shortly thereafter and the teams came back out in the third period for the final twenty minutes of the Winter Classic.
The Rangers wasted little time in the third period and tied the game on a seemingly harmless wrist shot by Rupp coming down the left wing. Bobrovsky seemed to be fooled by the shot as it got past him on the short side to put the teams in a 2-2 deadlock and silenced the crowd that came out for the Flyers and gave voice to the thousands of Rangers fans who entered enemy territory to cheer on their team.
With the game now tied, the visitors had wrestled the momentum back from their hosts. The teams exchanged a shot on goal each over the next two minutes before Rangers center Brad Richards scored to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead at 5:21 of the third period.
The next several minutes of play was carried by the Rangers. The home team seemed down and out as the Rangers were able to get pucks in deep and do the cycling board work that they do best. All the while eating up valuable minutes on the game clock.
Fighting dropping temperatures, gusting winds, a little snow fall and snowy ice, the Flyers had an uphill battle trying to come back late in the third period.
Despite controlling play, the Rangers breathed life back into the Flyers when Ryan McDonagh took a two minutes delay of game penalty at 14:48. With just 5:12 left in the third period, that is perhaps the worst time to take a penalty and potentially hand the momentum back to the Flyers and that is exactly what happened.
The Rangers killed the penalty off but from that point on, it was the Flyers’ puck. They tried valiantly to tie it up, peppering shots at Lundqvist, often finding their pointmen open for drives, working the puck down low in the Rangers zone, the Flyers were buzzing.
With time running down and Bobrovsky on the Flyers bench for an extra attacker, New York seemed to have a chance to put the game away as captain Ryan Callahan broke out of the zone, pushed the puck forward and charged down the ice.
However Callahan was hooked to the ice by Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timmonen and closed his hand on Timmonen’s stick on the play which meant both of them went to the penalty box.
The Flyers kept pounding at the door but Lundqvist repeatedly turned them away until a puck slid past him. McDonagh was right there for New York to make a sliding attempt to keep it out of the goal. He was able to keep the puck from going in but was called for closing his hand on the puck while in the crease which means the Flyers were awarded a penalty shot!
Talk about drama, over 4 decades of history between these teams, the focus has been on them all season, fighting each other for divisional and conference standing position, fans who clearly do not like each other, players who do not like each other, the two winningest American born coaches in the NHL, a two goal lead erased and turned into a one goal deficit for the home team, outdoors, under the lights, 46,967 screaming fans, one of the best goalies in the league at one end and one of the shiftiest scorers in Daniel Briere about to take the penalty shot that could tie this game with just 19.6 seconds left on the clock. The stadium would have exploded with cheers and possibly energize the Flyers for a forthcoming overtime victory.
Briere picked up the puck at center ice and closed in on Lundqvist, as he drew closer with his head up he tried to shoot fivehole on Lundqvist but was stopped by the Rangers goaltender.
The Flyers were able to get the puck down in the Rangers end again but simply ran out of time and the Rangers left Philadelphia with two points in the standings and countless great memories for themselves and their fans.
Philadelphia was a wonderful host for the Winter Classic and offered a great number of outdoor activities for the 46,000 plus fans at the game as well as thousands more outside who were just there for the atmosphere!
Be a part of the big event which seems to get better and better every season, next year’s game has yet to be announced but you can sign up for a 2013 Winter Classic Tickets email alert and be notified when you can order 2013 Winter Classic Tickets.