New York Rangers 3 Philadelphia Flyers 2
The Winter Classic has become almost as big of an event as the Super Bowl to hockey fans. Everyone watches the game no matter who your team is, parties are thrown and an excessive amount of beer and food are consumed. There are a few things that set this game apart from any other typical NHL game. The biggest difference, and most obvious, is the atmosphere. You have two teams that have been in the league for decades, usually bitter rivals, facing off on an outdoor rink set within a baseball or football stadium. The noise is amplified and players get the opportunity to skate outside in the winter cold, an activity that most of them grew up doing. You also have a lot of old-time hockey greats in attendance and that combined with the unique retro jerseys give the game a sort of old-school feel that is unequalled in all of sports. In this fifth annual Winter Classic game, the conference leading New York Rangers were to face their tough division rival, the Philadelphia Flyers, in a game where points could not be sacrificed by either team.
The game started out rather slow. Neither side could really find a rhythm in order to create any sort of sustained offense in the opposition’s zone. There were a lot of dumping and chasing into the zone, which was almost always easily handled by the defense. It wasn’t until almost eight minutes into the second period that the 0-0 tie was finally broken by Brayden Schenn for Philly.
Schenn scored his first career goal off of beautiful centering feed by Matt Carle. The Flyers seemed to be outworking the Rangers and sure enough, Claude Giroux tallied his 18th of the season just two minutes later making the score 2-0 Philadelphia in the second period. It was about then that the most unlikely of heroes for the Rangers stepped up.
Mike Rupp disruppted (get it?) Sergei Bobrovsky’s shutout when he beat the goaltender exactly thirty seconds after Giroux’s goal. Assisted by Brandon Prust and John Mitchell, this was only his second goal of the season and certainly an unexpected big goal for a player usually viewed as enforcer/grinder type. With the momentum on the Ranger’s side, the Blueshirts would go into the locker room for the second intermission feeling confident. They came out hot.
Rupp scored his third of the season, again assisted by Prust and Mitchell, when he let off a bad angle shot that just barely squeezed under Bobrovsky’s arm to tie the game. Brad Richards put an end to the tie three minutes later when he put in a rebound off of a Brandon Dubinsky shot. The turn of events was shocking. It seemed that the Flyers were going to roll over the Rangers and, in a matter of seconds, the game seemed to tilt the other way.
The score remained 3-2 for the rest of the period after countless attempts by the officials to make it an even game. The whistles in the third period seemed to
heavily favor the home team, including two huge calls late in the game. With just under two minutes remaining in the game, Kimmo Timonen was charged with a very obvious interference on Ryan Callahan, which would just about seal the game for New York. However the official also called Callahan for holding the stick making it a four on four situation. Watching the countless following replays, it was just about impossible to defend that call. This would give the Flyers a definite advantage, opening up the ice and making it 5 on 4 instead of 6 on 5 when they pulled their goalie. The Rangers’ penalty kill battled hard until, with 20 seconds remaining in the game, Danny Briere was awarded a penalty shot after Ryan McDonagh was charged with covering the puck in the crease. There was absolutely no video evidence that McDonagh ever intentionally covered the puck and certainly no evidence to support the claim that he closed his hand on the puck. Regardless, Briere would be facing off against one of the premiere goaltenders in the league, Henrik Lundqvist. When Briere was skating in to take the shot, you could see his mind was made up the whole time that he was going to go five hole and Lundqvist waited on him and made a stellar stop to save the game. The Rangers finished it off strong, taking the Winter Classic 3-2.
With no shortage of drama, Ranger fans could forget about the whole MSG/Time Warner feud and watch one of the more memorable Winter Classics on NBC. The game had everything. Great goaltending, surprise heroes, and an edge-of-your-seat finish, that in the end showed what an all-around great sport, the game of ice hockey is.
-Special Thanks to Tyler Perrillo for his reporting and analysis.
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