A young boy's dream came to life under the lights and a chilly wind, with more than 46,000 fans stood cheering at Citizens Bank Park in 38-degree temperatures as a national television audience sat in toasty warm homes. Henrik Lundqvist, playing his first game outdoors since he was a child in Sweden, squared up as the Flyers’ Danny Briere bore down on him on a penalty shot with 19.6 seconds remaining. “There was a lot of pressure on me there,” Lundqvist said. He was up for the moment that thousands of kids in icy Northern climes dream of as they drift off to sleep — “Will I stop a penalty shot?”
Lundqvist braced himself as Briere fired on his forehand, aiming his shot between his legs. Lundqvist closed his legs, and the puck bounced harmlessly off his left pad. King Henrik, as he's better known as, pumped his right arm in brief but emphatic celebration. Rangers fans roared. Flyers fans fell silent. Lundqvist’s save, the last of his 34, preserved a come-from-behind 3-2 victory Monday for the Rangers in the fifth Winter Classic, another milestone in the Rangers’ magical season. The win, their seventh in the last eight games, gave them 52 points in 37 games, the best record in the N.H.L. “When it snowed in the second period, that was awesome,” Lundqvist said. “The last time I played outside, I was 10. But it’s still the same game — it really is.”
There were several Rangers stars on an ice sheet that stretched from third base to first on the stadium field. Defenseman Marc Staal made a surprising return from the postconcussion syndrome that had sidelined him since last April 23. He logged a modest but effective 12 minutes 41 seconds and finished plus 1. Another was Mike Rupp. A 6-foot-5 forward better known lately for fighting, he scored two goals that erased a 2-0 deficit, his second and third goals of the season. After his first goal, at 14:51 of the second period, Rupp gave a salute, a mocking reference to the Flyers’ Jaromir Jagr, who salutes after each of his goals. “I was happy I had that goal, and that’s kind of where I’ll leave it,” Rupp said.
Brad Richards scored the winner at 5:21 of the third period, 2:40 after Rupp’s second goal. He forehanded a rebound past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to cap a play started by Ryan Callahan, who led the Rangers with 11 hits, and Brandon Dubinsky, who had 10.
The Rangers’ comeback marked the first time the Flyers had lost in regulation this season after leading at the second intermission. Their record in that situation is now 18-1-1.
It also gave the Rangers a 3-0 mark against the Flyers this season. If only one of those results were reversed, the teams would be deadlocked in the standings.
The first half of the game tended toward the dull side, as if in the torpor of a late winter afternoon. But the game awoke when Brayden Schenn, 20, scored his first N.H.L. goal 12:26 into the second period for the Flyers.
Schenn had returned from a concussion that sidelined him last month. Another Flyer who missed time in December with a concussion, Claude Giroux, made the score 2-0 at 14:21. It was the 18th goal and 46th point of the season for Giroux, the league’s leading scorer. But 30 seconds later, Rupp used defenseman Andrej Meszaros as a screen to beat Bobrovsky, and the Rangers’ rally was on. The Flyers tried to come back over the last five minutes, but they were hampered by the absence of Jagr, who played only two shifts in the second period before leaving the game with swelling in his left leg from a previous injury. “It’s too bad that it happened in such a big game as today,” Jagr said. “But that’s part of life and part of sport.”
With 20 seconds left, Briere was denied at the Rangers’ right post when Lundqvist stuck out his toe. But the puck dribbled beneath, and defenseman Ryan McDonagh dived on it as it nudged the goal line. The referees called McDonagh for covering the puck in the crease. Penalty shot for the Flyers. Lundqvist said he “couldn’t believe” the call because, he and McDonagh said, the puck wound up under Lundqvist’s pad. Tortorella complained about that call and others, risking a fine in his postgame remarks. “I’m not sure if NBC got together with the refs or what to turn this into an overtime game,” he said, referring to the referees Ian Walsh and Dennis LaRue. “For two good refs, I thought the game was reffed horribly.”
McDonagh said he was relieved when Lundqvist stopped Briere on the penalty shot. “He’s the backbone of the team,” he said. After all the hype, all the trash talk and the buildup of the HBO series chronicling the Flyers-Rangers rivalry, the Winter Classic ended in a Rangers win. In the dressing room after the game, Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi sat eating a Philly cheese steak. “This is delicious,” he said, savoring the taste of victory.
Here's the Penalty Shot & play leading up to it, YOU DECIDE: http://youtu.be/PD-KrB3g40A
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