NHL Winter Classic 2012: 5 Things Learned

Roman UschakCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2012

NHL Winter Classic 2012: 5 Things Learned

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    Tom Mihalek/Associated Press

    The 2012 NHL Winter Classic is in the books, with the New York Rangers having defeated the host Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2, at Citizens Bank Park.

    Here's five things gleaned from today's game, which boosted the Rangers to a four-point lead over the Flyers in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference...

The Road Team Won Again

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    Mel Evans/Associated Press

    It's been a trend since Pittsburgh won at Buffalo in the inaugural 2008 game. Adding in today's win by the visiting Rangers, only Boston in 2010 has recorded a Winter Classic win in its "home" stadium. (The Flyers were the victim in that game, too.) 

Just Like the Playoffs, Look to the Grinders

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    Tom Mihalek/Associated Press

    Mike Rupp made his mark as an NHL rookie in 2003 when he scored the Stanley Cup winning goal for the New Jersey Devils that year against Anaheim.

    Though he's been more well-known in his career for his checking and fighting abilities, Rupp got the Rangers back into today's game by scoring their first two goals after Philadelphia went up 2-0. One was a wrist shot through a screen, while the other was a wide-angle shot that went in off of Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

    Just like in the Stanley Cup playoffs every spring, sometimes you need the third- and fourth-liners to come through on the scoresheet and give your team a much-needed lift.

The Stars Also Shined

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    Associated Press

    Brad Richards scored the game-winning goal at 5:21 of the third period for the Rangers.

    Richards, the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as Stanley Cup Playoff MVP and now one of the highest-paid players in the game, came up biggest when his team needed him to, putting home a rebound by Brandon Dubinsky to give New York its first and only lead.

    It didn't help the Flyers that Jaromir Jagr sustained an injury and couldn't finish the contest, or who knows what heroics he himself might have been able to pull off for Philadelphia? Claude Giroux, the league's second-leading scorer, also scored a neat backhand goal in the second period to put Philly up, 2-0.

    Richards wasn't the only Rangers star to come through big-time, though...

Henrik Lundqvist Does It Again

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    New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist (30), of Sweden, blocks a shot by Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux (28) in the first period of the NHL Winter Classic hockey game, Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
    Mel Evans/Associated Press

    Rupp and Richards may have lit the lamp for the Rangers, but it was all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who made the comeback possible by making 36 saves in all.

    His biggest stop of the day came with less than 30 seconds left, when he stymied Danny Briere on a penalty shot that could have tied the game and forced overtime. King Henrik shut the door, though, and the Rangers are now 24-9-4 overall, and four points ahead of the Flyers in the standings.

The Winter Classic Is Here to Stay

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    TOM MIHALEK/Associated Press

    There are always going to be the naysayers who claim that the NHL doesn't need an outdoor game every single season.

    Today's back-and-forth contest, though, before nearly 50,000 people in the stands, with millions more watching on TV, demonstrated that this is going to be the NHL's signature event to ring in the New Year every year. The hockey was good, the atmosphere is carnival-like, the excitement level was ratcheted up by a late penalty-shot attempt and it again brought back memories for us older folks of skating on ponds while growing up.

    It's a bigger pond nowadays with the NHL, true; but the Winter Classic doesn't look like it's going anywhere anytime soon.