The Rangers have been riding high since December 17th. With three wins in a row, what better way to start off the Christmas break than to win before HBO’s 24/7 cameras just one week before the Winter Classic? And what better way to show their holiday spirit on Madison Square Garden ice than to win against their Winter Classic opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers?
Coach John Tortorella said not so long ago that one of the key factors in success is to find your momentum. If you’ve lost it, then you have to find a way to get it back.
The Rangers entered into Friday night’s contest looking as equally greedy for a strong playoff run as the Flyers. The Rangers were 20-8-4, while the Flyers were 21-8-4. After the Rangers’ win on Friday, both teams’ records are now identical, making for the upcoming Winter Classic to be even more intriguing.
With the return of Claude Giroux to the lineup after suffering a concussion, the Flyers looked primed and ready to take a win over the Rangers, but New York was able to shut down Philly’s top line. The Flyers, on the other hand, were not able to shut the Rangers down.
With four goals against the Flyers’ Ilya Bryzgalov, it seemed as if the Rangers wanted this win more. As each period came to a close, the Flyers started to wear down more and more. They were trying too hard and not succeeding. This allowed the Rangers the power to come back and capitalize on the tiring Flyers.
“I guess they want more than we are,” Bryzgalov said of the Rangers win. “That’s why they win.”
“If there’s one key, I think it’s just a matter of playing good hockey and playing the way we have to play,” Rangers’ captain Ryan Callahan said.
Derek Stepan was the first to get the Rangers on the scoreboard in the second period at 10:18. He tried to redirect and bat the puck in, but he was lucky that his stick didn’t come up too high (shoulder height) to be considered an illegal goal. After review, the goal was considered a good one.
Ruslan Fedotenko followed at 15:29 with the Rangers’ second goal to give New York a 2-0 lead over the Flyers at the end of the second period.
In the final period, Marian Gaborik scored his 21st goal of the season (in the Rangers 33rd game of the season) at 1:48. With Artem Anisimov in the penalty box for holding, Andrej Meszaros recorded the Flyers’ first goal of the game at 10:21.
Callahan went on to net the Rangers’ fourth goal of the game at 14:04 on the power play, creating an even harder comeback for the Flyers. James van Riemsdyk was able to slice the Rangers’ lead in half at 17:50, but it wasn’t enough as the Rangers raised their sticks after the final buzzer in their 4-2 win over the Flyers.
Looking ahead to the Winter Classic, the victor boils down to who wants the win more. With the Flyers playing in their hometown, they would want the win in the outdoor game more than the Rangres. But this is also the Rangers they’re playing against, they always want to win…just as much as the Flyers do.
With both teams now 21-8-4, this will be a game equally matched after the New Year. With one of the biggest division rivalries going head to head, the Winter Classic will make for one of the most interesting outdoor games the NHL has seen to date.
The Winter Classic takes place on January 2, 2012 in the Phillies’ stadium – Citizens Bank Park – in Philadelphia.