Flyers Blow Two-Goal Lead, Lose Winter Classic to Rangers
As Claude Giroux’s beautiful backhanded flip went over the shoulder of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Philadelphia’s Winter Classic seemed like it would be a total success. The Flyers had taken a 2-0 lead on Giroux’s team-high 18th goal in front of their home fans. In Citizens Bank Park, the majority of almost 47,000 people were ecstatic.
With just 5:39 remaining in the second period, the Flyers were in the driver’s seat to victory.
Instead, they let the Rangers sit behind the wheel for the last 35 minutes en route to a 3-2 New York victory.
Mike Rupp scored his second goal of the season just 30 seconds after Giroux’s pretty tally which brought New York within a goal after two periods. A little under three minutes into the third period, Rupp doubled his season goal total and tied the game at 2-2.
On a rebound in front of the net, Brad Richards gave the Rangers the 3-2 lead with 14:39 remaining in regulation. Giroux was caught watching the play beside the net and allowed Richards to go unmarked in front to goalie Sergei Bobrovsky’s left side. Richards easily deposited the puck behind the second-year Russian netminder.
Philadelphia would press on and try to mount a comeback, but their attempts were all thwarted. Lunqvist stopped several quality chances in the final stanza, including a penalty shot attempt by Daniel Briere with just 19.6 seconds remaining.
The Flyers (22-11-4) were beneficiaries of a couple questionable calls in the final minutes, including the call that gave Briere one final chance at tying the game. On a loose puck in the crease, Ranger Ryan McDonagh was called for covering the puck with his glove.
Despite the late failed opportunities, Philadelphia shouldn’t have been in the position they were in at that point. The Flyers clearly took their collective foot off the gas pedal after Giroux’s tally. Despite strong shifts and a late flurry of attempts, New York (24-9-4) controlled the play for the game’s last 25 minutes.
On a stage as grand as the NHL’s biggest spectacle of the season, Philadelphia’s disappointing finish is perplexing. Part of the problem could be attributed to Jaromir Jagr’s injury during the second period in Monday’s contest. Without Jagr, the team’s first line lacked the great chemistry that has made it one of the best lines in hockey.
Regardless of the correct answer, if there is one, about the Flyers inability to finish the Rangers, Lunqvist certainly made his presence felt.
‘The King’ finished with 34 saves on 36 shots. He stopped Giroux on a breakaway. He stopped Jagr on another. He stood tall on Briere's penalty shot. He did what he does best and continued to foil Philadelphia as they flailed late in the game.
In the end, the Flyers didn’t do enough to distract the great Swedish goalie. They lacked traffic in front of him on the attempts from the point, they didn’t move him enough laterally.
It was just another solid performance from one of the game’s great goalies, and the Flyers failed to match his play.
With the defeat, the Flyers fell to 0-3-0 against the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers this season. If they want to end that slump, they’ll have to do it indoors.
And they’ll have to do it with a 60-minute effort.