I’m still recovering from the heart-pounding action of today’s NHL Winter Classic. The visiting New York Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2, in a thriller that went down to the wire. But it was the Rangers goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, who had the final say.
In a previous article I argued that the Winter Classic should crown an MVP. This would increase fan involvement and further publicize the spectacle, while honoring the game’s most valuable player.
Lundqvist was hands down the MVP of this contest.
During the fast-paced, intense showdown at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark, Lundqvist made 33 saves—including a big save against Jaromir Jagr on a breakaway in the first period, and against Danny Briere’s penalty shot with 19 seconds left in regulation.
After a scoreless first period, all eyes were on goaltenders Lundqvist and Sergei Bobrovsky—who made 30 saves and kept the Flyers in the game.
The Flyers quickly went up 2-0 in the second period. Brayden Schenn tapped in a rebound off Matt Carle’s shot from the blue line to break Lundqvist’s shutout, and Claude Giroux scored on a pass from Maxime Talbot two minutes later.
But Lundqvist would stop everything else he faced for the rest of the game.
Seconds after Giroux’s goal, the Rangers answered with a goal by Mike Rupp off a beautiful backhand set up from Brandon Prust to make it 2-1.
Snow began to fall as the game heated up, and the stage was set for the third period.
Rupp tied it up three minutes into the third period, and Brad Richards broke the tie to make it 3-2 in favor of the Rangers off a sweet pass from Brandon Dubinsky from behind the net.
The Flyers caught a break with a power play in the last five minutes of the game, but Lundqvist stood tall.
After Ryan McDonagh covered the puck in the crease to prevent a goal with 19 seconds left, a penalty shot was assessed and all eyes were on Danny Briere. Lundqvist held his ground and blocked the five-hole to rob Briere’s chance at tying the game.
After a flurry of saves in the final seconds of the game, Lundqvist helped the Rangers hold on for victory. The Rangers are now 2-0 against the Flyers this season and begin 2012 atop the Eastern Conference. Their next game is Thursday against the Florida Panthers.