PHILADELPHIA – Maybe it couldn’t be scripted any better.
A penalty shot in the last minute, snow flurries, and come from behind win, all in front of almost 47,000 fans at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
It was so perfect, you had to wonder if there was some planning going on.
“I am not sure if NBC got together with the refs to send it to the overtime game,” said coach John Tortorella with his tongue firmly in cheek, but then proceeded to criticize the calls of the game. “I am not sure what happened there, maybe they wanted to get it to an overtime.”
Well looking up, there was no flakes falling from the NBC blimp, so maybe it was an amazing coincidence. The fact, though, is that this game showed a national audience that these New York Rangers are for real and no matter what conspiracies are out there, the club is a force to be reckoned with in the NHL after their 3-2 win at the Winter Classic.
This is a Ranger team built on team unity, rather than star power. It’s a club that needs to play the game right because they can’t make up for mistakes on pure talent, rather hard work. They check, fight for the puck, and do the little things that make the team win.
“You know, we have some talent,” Tortorella said. “But we are not the most gifted team and we have developed an identity and I think the guys — the onus, they have to accept the responsibility, because they have developed this on their own as far as that identity, and that’s the way we have to play. That’s a big reason why we found our way tonight.”
The Classic was a perfect example of what to do and not to do for the Rangers. Over the first 30 minutes, the Rangers were playing as Tortorella put it, “stale” and wasn’t doing the little things to make the team win. Be it nerves, adjustments to the outside, or the far away stands, it was tough for the team to get focused and was 26-17 over the first two periods.
But even after the Flyers scored two goals, these Rangers do not give up and 30 seconds after Claude Giroux got the second tally, Mike Rupp, cut the lead in half and then erased the Flyer lead entirely in the third.
The fourth line center was such a dominate force that maybe he should be called, Mr. Winter Classic.
“Yeah maybe you should,” chuckled defenseman Anton Stralman.
But Rupp just laughed it off.
Then Brad Richards – the free agent signing that actually came through – put the game winner in and ended it for Philly.
And that’s what makes these Rangers different. They are tightly knit and close. They like each other and play as a unit.
And when all else fails, there’s Henrik Lundqvist, who probably is now the best goaltender in the league and came up big in the final seconds, stopping Daniel Briere’s penalty shot shutting down any Flyer hopes.
“He’s a tricky guy, obviously there’s a lot of pressure on me there,” Lundqvist said. “I couldn’t believe it when he called the penalty shot, but it was exciting. The whole game was exciting. Pretty intense. It was great. But yeah, just tried to be patient and it worked out.”
And maybe they forgot about Lundqvist in those fictional NBC-NHL meetings or maybe they didn’t and just didn’t know how good these Rangers will be in the winter air.
Because no one told the Blueshirts about the script.