It took about a period for the New York Rangers to fully enter the 2012 Winter Classic, but once they did they made sure to keep their foot on the gas, winning by a score of 3-2 against the Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park.
The win against the Flyers was their seventh in eight games as well as their third win in three games played against Philly this year. It also gives them a more comfortable four-point cushion as the first place team in the Atlantic Division.
While the Rangers looked lethargic in the first period as the Flyers dominated play, they managed to head to the dressing room unscathed as the period ended with no score.
Philadelphia jumped out to a 2-0 lead midway through the second on goals by Brayden Schenn (his first NHL goal) and Claude Giroux, but fourth-liner Mike Rupp responded 30 seconds later to cut the lead to 2-1.
Rupp scored again in the third to tie the score at 2-2, setting the stage for Brad Richards’ eventual game-winning goal three minutes later.
Those are the basic details, but here are five specific reasons why it was New York that came out on top.
In the first period, the Flyers were able to move through the neutral zone like it was butter, finished their checks and dominated the boards, as they were able to cycle the puck around quite easily.
As the game went on, that changed.
In the third period in particular, when they were killing off Ryan McDonagh’s delay of game penalty, the Rangers had no problem winning the puck along the boards and sending it down the ice. It was also good play along the boards behind the net that eventually led to Brad Richards’ game-winner.
In my article “3 Keys To Beating The Rangers,” I mentioned that Philadelphia had the advantage with experience in previous Winter Classics, as they had nine players still remaining with the team from the 2010 Winter Classic between the Flyers and Boston Bruins. The Rangers only had one—Mike Rupp, who played in last year’s Winter Classic with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
My, did he use his experience to his advantage, scoring from just outside the slot in the second (followed up by a Jagr-esque salute) and from the left side in the third.
You may call it a coincidence, but it is quite interesting that it just happened to be Rupp that got the Rangers back into the game after it seemed to be slipping away. He also managed to score two goals in the game after only getting one in his first 14 games of the season. Perhaps he was unaffected by the jitters that plagued most of the Rangers for the first half of the game.
Sergei Bobrovsky was decent for most of yesterday’s game, though to be fair, he wasn’t severely tested by the Rangers.
Bobrovsky let in one stinker, though. The second Mike Rupp goal was a weak shot from the left side that Bobrovsky completely misread.
In Bobrovsky’s defense, it wasn’t his goaltending that lost the game for them—not capitalizing on glorious scoring chances hurt the Flyers dearly—but in a tight game on a big stage, you can’t let in goals like that.
The second Rupp goal gave the Rangers all of the momentum in the third period and they used it to their advantage.
Surprisingly, the 2012 Winter Classic didn’t feature any fights even though it involved two of the most penalized teams in the NHL this year.
The Rangers in particular showed great discipline and kept things clean. Marc-Andre Bourdon tried to goad Brandon Dubinsky into a fight during the second period after Dubinsky hit him hard in his own zone, but Dubinsky wisely backed off and skated back to his bench.
Both calls in the third period that were supposedly controversial were warranted, but the Ryan McDonagh one that caused the penalty shot at the end saved a goal and was a good penalty to take. Overall, the Rangers did a good job of keeping the ninth-ranked power-play unit off the ice.
More than anything or anyone else, Henrik Lundqvist was the difference yesterday.
In the first period, King Henrik stopped both Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr on breakaways—the former by way of a lovely poke check and the latter due to strong butterfly positioning.
Lundqvist was peppered with shots throughout the entire game (the Flyers out-shot the Rangers 36-33) but was very good with handling rebounds, as almost every shot was either steered into the corner or held for a whistle.
The penalty shot stop on Danny Briere was the icing on the cake that sealed the victory, a fitting way to end the game and start the new year off right for the Rangers.