NHL Winter Classic 2012: Henrik Lundqvist Shines Under Pressure

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NHL Winter Classic 2012: Henrik Lundqvist Shines Under Pressure
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With his team down 2-0 and again on a penalty shot with less than 20 seconds remaining in regulation, King Henrik came up big in this year's Winter Classic on enemy ice in Philadelphia.

Lundqvist stopped 33-of-35 shots that came mostly in flurries from the rabid Philadelphia Flyers.

In the third period, the Flyers pulled goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and enjoyed a favorable 5-on-4 matchup. The Flyers shot the puck past Lundqvist's five-hole and as the puck slid toward the goal line, New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh laid on top of the puck, effectively freezing it in an illegal play. Shooter Danny Briere was awarded a penalty shot.

Briere lined up at center ready to tie the game up and set the Flyers up for overtime. He roared down the ice making dekes and jukes trying to fool Lundqvist to send the puck to the net through the pads—the exact spot where he had beat Lundqvist a minute earlier.

The Rangers goalie stood tall and gave nothing away as he stared down Briere and the puck the entire time, and when the shot came Lundqvist dropped to the butterfly and slammed the door shut on Briere, denying the tying goal. The King stood up and gave an ultra-confident full body shrug knowing he had saved the day.

New York Rangers centerman Mike Rupp had the Rangers' first two goals. Rupp, a man who scored the Stanley Cup winning goal with the New Jersey Devils in 2003, is no stranger to success. He gave a Jaromir Jagr style salute to the crowd before he was confronted by gritty winger Scott Hartnell, who had a point and an impressive 12 penalty minutes on the night.

League MVP-favorite Claude Giroux scored a goal, and top Philly rookie/prospect Brayden Schenn scored his first career goal to open up the scoring for the Flyers, who took a 2-0 lead in the second period. That would be the last goal for the Flyers.

Lundqvist denied them in the third period and kept his team in the game, allowing enough time for Rangers' top center Brad Richards to score the game-winning goal with the assists coming from captain Ryan Callahan and newly-revived Brandon Dubinsky.

In the final minute in the third period, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timmonen hooked Callahan around the neck with his stick as Callahan was trying to score an empty-net goal to seal the deal. Instead of putting the Rangers on a power play, the referees handed out matching minors as Callahan was found guilty of holding on to Timmonen's stick after the hook.

It was a perfect Winter Classic with a total of 91 hits between two teams that made it blatantly apparent they do not like one another. Philadelphia out shot the Rangers and won more faceoffs but lost its second Winter Classic in three years. It is worth noting the last time the Flyers lost they did make the Stanley Cup Finals.

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