Classic Flyers loss to Rangers
CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
|Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk falls into the Rangers net over goaltender Henrik Lundqvist during the Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Penn., Jan. 2, 2012. (BRUCE BENNETT/Getty Images/AFP)
PHILADELPHIA - At the Winter Classic, it was classic Philadelphia Flyers.
Done in by some questionable goaltending on a big, glittering stage -- how many times have you heard that -- this time by young Sergei Bobrovsky, the Flyers lost 3-2 to the New York Rangers in the NHL's made-for-TV outdoor event at Citizens Bank Park.
A new, storybook stage, a snowglobe snow falling in the second period; a story that must be getting so tired for Flyers fans, snarly at the best of times.
Rangers forward Mike Rupp stuck it to the Flyers and their fans among the 46,967 at the ball park, scoring two goals. He jabbed the Flyers with a mock bare-handed salute a la Jaromir Jagr after his first to make it 2-1 for Philly, which got the Rangers back in a game in which they had no business being but for the goaltending of the brilliant Henrik Lundqvist, the heart of this gritty Rangers team.
Rupp's second, which tied it 2-2 before the third period was three minutes old, was a stinker on Bobrovsky, as he burrowed into his shoulders and made himself small, the puck squeezing by him on the short side.
Brad Richards got the winner just past the five-minute mark of the third, jumping on a big rebound and pushing the Rangers four points ahead of the Flyers at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Rupp and Richards, two summer free agent signings, have been keys to the Rangers' ascension in the East, two guys contributing at opposite ends of the depth chart.
Rupp, who played in last year's Winter Classic with the Pittsburgh Penguins, said the foreign environment and the less-than-perfect ice conditions level the playing field for grinders like himself.
"Games like this -- first off, the ice was awesome, a lot better than it was last year, but over the course of the game it starts wearing -- it kind of gives guys like me more of an opportunity to get something ugly," he said. "My whole thinking is if I get a chance to shoot, I'm going to shoot. If my teammate is there, I'm going to the net. I threw it in there and I think it banked off (Bobrovsky). It didn't go straight in. You just take those ugly ones."
But that's been the story for the Flyers for most of this generation of Philly fans, hasn't it? Questionable goaltending on a big stage?
On what started out as a brilliant, sunny afternoon, the lingering shadow is once again the one that falls on the Flyers' crease. Bobrovsky got the start over Ilya Bryzgalov, the quirky, $51-million free agent who has been brilliant on HBO's 24/7; much less so on the ice.
"There's no issue. We have no issue," said Flyers owner Ed Snider in the Philly room after the game. "We have two good goalies. We'll be fine. We're fighting for first place so something must be going well. They can't be that bad."
At the other end of the ice, Lundqvist was brilliant, no more so than with 20 seconds left in the third period, he stopped Philadelphia's Daniel Briere on a penalty shot which was awarded after a goalmouth scramble, a call that left the Rangers livid. It was like the NHL was trying to create some drama for its marquee event.
"I'm not sure if NBC got together with the refs or what to turn this into an overtime game. So for two good refs, I thought the game was reffed horribly," said Rangers coach John Tortorella of the work by Ian Walsh and Dennis LaRue. "So I'm not sure what happened there. Maybe they wanted to get into overtime. I'm not sure if they had meetings about that or what. But we stood in there. We stood in there. And again, I don't want to -- because they are good guys; I just thought tonight, it was, in that third period, it was disgusting."
The Flyers had a 2-0 lead on goals by Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux before that little bit of snow started drifting down in the second period. Either that or the Flyers fans in the upper deck at Citizens Bank Park started shredding those vintage, off-white Rangers sweaters.
For a good chunk of the opening 20 minutes, it looked like the Flyers could have started 66-year-old Bernie Parent, the Flyers Cup-winning goaltender who played a brief stint in the alumni game Saturday and stopped Ron Duguay on a breakaway. But the Flyers lost Jagr in the second (he aggravated a calf injury he picked up from a spear in his previous game, he said) and the Rangers mounted their comeback.
Goaltending was the difference in this one and once again, it was the Flyers who were left out in the cold.