Sather Guarantee Holds Up in Rangers Winter Classic Victory

Philadelphia – This past September Rangers GM Glen Sather guaranteed a victory in the Winter Classic. Many people didn’t give that a fair shake. He was deadly serious. He had never given a guarantee like that before and low and behold the New York Rangers did pull out a 3-2 win in spectacular fashion with a nail-biting ending.

Goaltending was an important part of this game and Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist made the save of the game when he stoned Danny Briere on a penalty shot, the first in Winter Classic history, at 19:46 of the 3rd period. Briere tried to go five-hole but against Lundqvist, arguably the best 1-on-1 goalie in the league.

This game had a lot of moments but not too many in the first period. The Flyers had the momentum at the time but they didn’t capitalize. When Claude Giroux had a breakaway, the Flyers first great chance, Lundqvist got aggressive poke checked the puck away with the knob of his stick at the top of the blue part of the crease.

When Rangers forward Artem Anisimov made a falling down pass to Marian Gaborik who took a solid shot on goal but Sergei Bobrovsky hugged the post to make the save. Later in the game he failed to do that.

It was 41.1 degrees at game time and the 46,967 in attendance weren’t too cold but the wind did make it feel colder. On the plus side the ice was in great shape.

Late in the period Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr had a breakaway and he re-aggravated a leg contusion (now a groin injury) that he picked up in the Penguins game from a spear. He played just 7:09 and a handful of shifts in the game.

Flyers Brayden Schenn got his first NHL goal off a nice re-direct. He scored it from the left hash mark at 12:26 of the second period. The Flyers were rolling and the Rangers weren’t.

Then Giroux got a nice saucer pass from Max Talbot and he buried his team’s second goal at 14:21. The momentum was clearly with the Flyers at this point.

30 seconds later, Rangers grind guy Mike Rupp just roared back with a goal and and made a Jagr salute to make it a 2-1 game at 14:51. Brandon Prust made a nice pass to setup that play.

After two the Flyers were leading the game in shots 26-17 and both teams were 0-1 on the power play.

At 2:41 of the third period everything changed. Rupp got his second goal by sneaking it through BOB’s armpit while he was hugging the post. The Russian goalie was surprised he let that one up and the Rangers felt that was the break they were waiting for and the Flyers got deflated.

“He shot it at an angle and it went under my arm,” Bobrovsky said, talking about the 2-2 tie at the time and then answered “Yes” to the question of whether or not he felt like that was the game’s turning point.

“We know we’re a good time and we want to stay in first place and create some separation from the teams behind us,” said Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and then he added, “That was the ‘TSN Turning Point of the Game’.
“When we found out that we were really excited to have him back.”

And then when asked when he found out that his partner in crime was back he said, “I don’t know? Same time as you did. *wink* (at that point he was on a roll and he was snacking on his victory cheesesteak)

Brad Richards scored on a wrister that he lifted past the Flyers backstop at 5:21. Brandon Dubinsky made a fancy backhand pass that made the play. Now the Rangers did sit back for a short time but then they put the foot on the gas pedal.

Later in the period Andrej Meszaros took a mega-slapper from the point and Matt Read hit the side of the post. Lundqvist lost the puck behind him but the puck never went in. This missed opportunity would haunt the Orange and Black.

The game got weird when Rangers captain Ryan Callahan was pulled down, but no, he was called for a dive and Kimmo Timonen was in the box for interference.

Briere had the puck on his stick with Lundqvist down, missed the jam. Ryan McDonagh covered up the puck. It was a penalty shot at 19:40 of the final period. The excitement level was off the charts at this point.

Lundqvist stoned Briere. He tried five-hole but failed. Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette may have been trying to spark Briere with the opportunity. He rolled the dice and he got snake eyes.

The Flyers lost this game and now they are 4 points behind the Rangers in the Atlantic. They aren’t exactly settled between the pipes now and lately the Rangers have had their number.

The Rangers have played spirited hockey for most of the season. They have had few peaks and valley and right now they are playing their best hockey in a few seasons. Was this a revenge game for Lundqvist. Maybe celebrity chef, Duff Goldman, a HUGE Lundqvist fan posted this before the game started.

@BretHedican: @Duff_Goldman Who do you have in this #WinterClassic game?” RANGERS!! I can never forgive Philly for the playoffs 2 yrs ago!

Have the Rangers gotten over the shootout loss that propelled the Flyers into the playoffs and later the Stanley Cup? Perhaps.

Stats may not be the answer when it comes to this rivalry right now. Even though the Rangers have the upper hand today they would trade that for having the upper hand later in the season.

Could this two points cost the Flyers a playoff berth? Probably not but the Eastern Conference will tighten up and anything is possible.

* This is the latest the Rangers have been in first place of the Eastern Conference standings since the 1995-96 season, when New York held the top position through games played on Mar. 15, 1996 (game #68). *courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau
* Marc Staal was credited with one hit and posted a plus-one rating in 12:41 of ice time while making his season debut, after missing the first 36 games of the season with a concussion suffered last season.
* Brayden Schenn’s goal marked the second time a Flyer has scored his first career NHL goal in the Winter Classic, after Danny Syvret did it against Boston in 2010.

photo by del Tufo