Rangers rally to beat Flyers 3-2 in Winter Classic

Alone in the cold, it was up to Henrik Lundqvist to preserve a

Classic comeback.

His signature moment came with 19.6 seconds left after New York

defenseman Ryan McDonagh was whistled for covering the puck in the

crease. Flyers center Danny Briere streaked down the ice – a

replica of the Liberty Bell and bundled-up fans behind his back –

trying to send this one into overtime.

Lundqvist dropped to his knees on top of a chilly baseball field

and stoned Briere with his pads when the center tried to sneak it

through his legs.

This made-for-TV showcase had found its brightest star.

Lundqvist stopped 34 shots, Brad Richards scored the go-ahead

goal early in the third period and the New York Rangers rallied

from a two-goal deficit to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in the

Winter Classic on Monday at Citizens Bank Park.

”I was just trying to be patient and do my thing,” Lundqvist

said. ”He’s a sneaky guy, and there was a lot of pressure on

me.”

More pressure than any other regular-season games in January.

While this game meant two points in the standings, like the four

other NHL games set for Monday night, it received the kind of hype

normally reserved for the Stanley Cup finals. NBC televised the

game and HBO had 12 camera crews filming the game and

behind-the-scenes action for its ”24/7” series.

Rangers coach John Tortorella wondered if the officials wanted

their own time in the spotlight to build the drama.

”They called a penalty shot which I still don’t understand,”

he said. ”I’m not sure if NBC got together with the refs to turn

this into an overtime game. I thought the game was reffed

horrible.

”I just thought tonight, in that third period, it was

disgusting.”

Mike Rupp scored twice as New York won for the third time this

season against Philadelphia.

Playing on a rink that stretched from first base to third base,

the Rangers made the league’s fifth Classic event a memorable one

to stay atop the Eastern Conference standings.

The NHL surrounded the rink with Christmas trees, firewood, fake

snow, and even trash-can fires. But there was nothing artificial in

the elements with snow flurries late in the second period and

temperatures that dipped into the 30s, forcing 46,967 fans to layer

in jerseys for the big event.

All that was missing was one of the breakout stars of HBO’s NHL

show.

Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who signed a nine-year, $51

million contract in June, saw a recent slump send him to the bench.

Sergei Bobrovsky, instead, took the call from coach Peter

Laviolette and failed to hold the early lead built in front of a

decidedly orange-and-black crowd.

The Flyers ended the game without Jaromir Jagr, their star

forward who played only a minute in the second period before

leaving the game for good. The 39-year-old Jagr, a former Ranger,

said after the game he injured his left leg and expected to return

soon.

Even with Jagr out, his presence was noted.

Rupp’s first goal late in the second came with a salute toward

the Flyers’ bench – the same move Jagr makes for the home crowd

after one of his goals. Rupp smiled as his teammates mobbed him

along the boards and the crowd booed his attempt at showing up

Jagr.

”I was happy I had the goal,” Rupp said, ”and that’s kind of

where I’ll leave it.”

Jagr never really had a chance to respond and the Flyers hope

whatever is ailing their third-leading scorer won’t keep him out

long.

Rupp, who scored the winning goal for New Jersey in Game 7 of

the 2003 Stanley Cup finals against Anaheim, delivered another

clutch goal on the big stage when his wrister from the circle shot

under Bobrovsky’s right arm and tied the game at 2.

Richards, the summer’s top free agent who is in his first season

with New York, wasted no time scoring the winner, knocking in a

rebound 3:20 later to put the Rangers up 3-2. It was his 14th of

the season.

Lundqvist outplayed Bobrovsky, stopping 12 shots in the first.

He finished with 34 saves, none bigger than the one on Briere, who

believed he could send the game into the extra session.

”All I was thinking is this game is going to overtime,” he

said. ”Unfortunately, he made the save. I tried to surprise him

with a quick shot, but he made the save.

”He’s one of the best in shootouts.”

Lundqvist, like Tortorella, questioned if the need to

manufacture drama played a role in calling the late penalty

shot.

”Maybe that’s really the only reason he called it,” he said.

”It would have been tough for them to tie it on that.”

With some fans paying more than a $1,000 a seat on the secondary

market, the stadium was full to the end. Though, most of them went

home unhappy.

Rookie Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux scored to give the

Flyers the early lead, as it appeared that the home team would

finally win its first game against New York this year.

Schenn, a prized rookie sent over from Los Angeles in the Mike

Richards deal over the summer, scored his first career goal midway

through the second period, setting off the Liberty Bell in right

field normally reserved for Phillies home runs.

Giroux showed a national audience how he’s blossomed into an MVP

candidate with a backhander 1:55 later for his 18th goal and a 2-0

lead. But the Flyers couldn’t beat Lundqvist again.

That didn’t stop the diehards, though, from being entertained by

hometown band, The Roots, and national anthem singer Patti

LaBelle.

The trash-can fires gave the game a ”Rocky” feel and the

pitchers’ mound and home plate area were left exposed. It was 41

degrees when the opening faceoff dropped just after 3 p.m., and

temperatures dipped the next three hours. The start time was pushed

back two hours to protect the rink from the sun.

”It was something special,” Jagr said. ”I wish everyone in

the NHL can get a chance to play in that game.”

New York received a dose of good news long before the final

horn. Defenseman Marc Staal made his return to the lineup after a

seasonlong absence from a concussion.

Staal, who turns 25 in January, has been out all season with the

effects of a concussion sustained in February when he was hit by

his brother, Eric, a forward for the Carolina Hurricanes. He has

been skating this month and was cleared for light contact.

Notes: The NHL used 20,000 gallons of water for the rink. …

The Flyers played in their second Winter Classic in two years and

have lost both. … The road team is 4-0-1 in the Winter Classic.

… Commissioner Gary Bettman held a postgame press conference and

reiterated that he had no idea where the Classic will be held next

year.