The fifth edition of the NHL’s Winter Classic may have been its best yet as the Philadelphia Flyers took on the New York Rangers in the league’s annual outdoor game at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia. While the game time had to be pushed back two hours because of the weather, the players were ready to go as soon as the puck dropped.
Both teams came out of the gate flying with back and forth action throughout the entire first period that ended scoreless, despite good chances from each team. The period was very physical, with both teams looking to leave their mark on each other. Throughout HBO’s “24/7: Flyers/Rangers” documentary, an inside look at both teams, the anticipation for this game was building. Players made it clear on the show that there was no love lost between the two of them and it didn’t disappoint.
Just over half way through the second period, the Flyers got on the board with Brayden Schenn recording his first career goal off a bad rebound from Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Less than two minutes later, Claude Giroux doubled the lead with his 18th goal of the year and Philadelphia seemed to be in control. But just 30 seconds later, Mike Rupp cut the lead to one again and celebrated with a Jaromir-Jagr esque salute that drew the ire of many Flyer players.
Unfortunately for Philly, Rupp wasn’t done celebrating as just over two minutes into the third period, he snuck a shot past Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky that he should have handled easily. Just a few minutes later, the Rangers big offseason signing Brad Richards broke the tie with his 14th goal of the year. A horrendous penalty call on the Rangers in final minutes of the game gave the Flyers an undeserved chance to tie up the game, but they couldn’t capitalize on it.
With 19.6 seconds left though, the referees ruled that the Rangers Ryan McDonough had closed his hand on the puck in the crease, leading to a Flyers penalty shot. Danny Briere took the shot for Philadelphia and tried to beat Lundqvist five-hole, but the Rangers goalie blocked it away. After a crazy scramble during the final 20 seconds, including a couple great chances for the Flyers, the Rangers skated away with a hard fought 3-2 victory.
Overall, the ice held up well with a couple of breaks in the action to fix spots, but no long delays. The rink looked surprisingly good on the baseball field as in past outdoor games at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, the ice seemed small compared to the large field. The rink in Citizens Bank Park was positioned well and filled up the field equally to create a great scene. The orange of the Philly crowd looked terrific against the night sky and the late start didn’t cause many issues with shadows on the ice.
In the end, the Rangers and Flyers provided a great game between two fierce rivals and the quality of hockey lived up to the spectacle of yet another tremendously successful Winter Classic.