The Philadelphia Flyers struck first, but the New York Rangers never gave up, scoring three unanswered goals to win the fifth anual NHL Winter Classic.
Over 45,000 fans packed themselves into Citizen Bank Park Sunday to see the Flyers and Rangers face off in an outdoor duel. This year's game was a highly anticipated matchup that was featured on HBO's 24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic. This game was important to both teams, with a win deciding first place in the Eastern Conference.
Mike Rupp, the man who replaced Sean Avery for the Blueshirts, scored twice, giving them the two points they needed to maintain their position in the standings. Rupp usually plays the role of the enforcer, but stepped up on Monday when coach John Tortorella needed him most.
One of the biggest stories heading into the game was Philadelphia's goalie situation. Early on it seemed like Ilya Bryzgalov, who they signed to a nine-year $51 million deal this summer, would be in net, but his poor play leading up to The Classic opened up an opportunity for Sergei Bobrovsky. After some confusion, Bobrovsky was announced the starter.
Another headliner going into the game was that Marc Staal, one of the Rangers alternate captain, would make his season debut. Staal had been out since last February, when his brother Eric gave him a concussion by checking him into the boards. The hit gave him bad Post-Concussion Syndrome, thus sidelining him for almost a year.
Nonetheless, Staal made his return for the Rangers and played a little more than half a period worth of ice time.
After a scoreless first period, Brayden Schenn scored the first goal of the game, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Schenn scored off a rebound from a save by Henrik Lundqvist.
Just two minutes later, Flyers' leading goal scorer Claude Giroux scored to give Philly a 2-0 lead.
With all the moment going Philadelphia's way, Mike Rupp silenced the crowd when he scored nearly 30 seconds after Giroux's goal. At the end of two periods, the Flyers led New York 2-1.
The third and final period was dominated by the Rangers. Within the first three minutes of play, Rupp scored his second goal of the game to tie it all up. Then, three minutes after that, Brad Richards scored his 14th goal of the year to give New York their first lead of the night.
Things got a little intense in the final few minutes, including a last second penalty shot, but the Rangers held on to win the game.
In five Winter Classic's the home team has actually had worse results. The 2010 Boston Bruins were the only home team to ever win the classic. That game was played at Fenway Park against none other
than the Philadelphia Flyers.
With the win, the Rangers are not only atop the Eastern Conference in points, but they are tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for the most points in the entire league. Along with Rupp's two goals, Henrik Lundqvist was the other star of the game, saving 34 shots on 36 save attempts.
The final 24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic will be next week on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see what the players had to say to each other before,during, and after the intense game.