It was an exciting day in Philadelphia as the stage was set for the NHL’s 5th annual Winter Classic game between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers. At stake for both teams were not only bragging rights, but 2 very important points in the standings that could potentially send either team to the top of the Eastern Conference. With all of the hype surrounding the game, especially with the HBO 24/7 cameras rolling and the crowd of nearly 50,000 people, the pressure was high for both teams. Starting in goal for the Flyers was Sergei Bobrovsky, the 23 year-old backup to Ilya Bryzgalov, who was benched due to a couple of recent poor performances. For the Rangers, it was all-star Henrik Lundqvist, one of the most talented and well-known goaltenders in the league, who was hot off a 4-game win streak.
Throughout the first period, the Flyers took control of the puck and created several great scoring opportunities, but it was Lundqvist who came up big stopping powerful shots from superstars like Claude Giroux, Kimmo Timonen, and Jaromir Jagr. The Rangers offense was fairly quiet throughout the first period, as Bobrovsky faced only 9 shots, few of which looked like they had a good chance of going in. About halfway through the second period, former L.A. King Brayden Schenn won the face-off and sent the puck back to Matt Carle who fired it towards Lundqvist. Lundqvist gave up the rebound and Schenn was right in front of the net to send the puck home, earning himself his very first NHL goal and putting his team up 1-0.
Just 2 minutes later, Flyers’ center Max Talbot carried the puck up the ice and made the pass for Claude Giroux, the second-leading point man in the NHL, who did what he does best and sent the puck top shelf on Lundqvist. 2-0 Flyers, but not for long. Moments later, New York’s Mike Rupp scored on Sergei Bobrovsky to cut the lead in half, and then proceeded to do a Jaromir Jagr type salute in celebration of the goal. This fueled a little bit of an on-ice confrontation between Rupp and Scott Hartnell, who apparently told Rupp to “show some respect” to the Hall-of-Famer.
In the third period, it was the Rangers’ Mike Rupp who scored again on the apparently not very alert Bobrovsky. In all honesty, I probably could have stopped that puck better than he did. But anyhow, that didn’t end the scoring streak for the Rangers. Shortly after, there was a scramble in front of Bobrovsky and the Flyers defense that led to a wide open right side of the net for Brad Richards to score and give his team the lead.
In the final minutes of the game, Bobrovsky made some huge saves that kept his team within reach, but a stoppage of play whistle in favor of the Rangers stopped a great opportunity for a Flyers goal. The referee lost sight of the puck, which was clearly free in front of the Rangers net and blew the whistle, ruining it for Flyers fans everywhere. With 19.6 seconds remaining, the Flyers shot a puck that was covered by the hand of Ryan McDonagh right in front of the goal line. This led to a penalty shot for Danny Briere, who was shut down by Lundqvist. The final 19 seconds were full of promising opportunities, but nothing was enough to change the 3-2 outcome in favor of the Rangers.
The 4th and final episode of 24/7 Flyers vs. Rangers: Road to the Winter Classic (longest TV show title in all history) will air on HBO Wednesday night. That means we probably get to see and hear all the behind the scenes action from the “Bryzgalov mishap,” as well as the on-ice drama from today’s game (and maybe even some post-game locker room scenes?). Regardless, if it’s anywhere near as awesome as the other three episodes, it’s definitely worth the watch…plus, there’s a great drinking game to go along with it. Here are the rules. Enjoy!
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