Mike Rupp scored two goals and Brad Richards posted the winner on top of a chilly baseball field, as the New York Rangers outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2, in the Winter Classic on Monday at Citizens Bank Park.
Playing on a rink that stretched from first base to third base, the Rangers made the league's fifth Classic event a memorable one, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to stay atop the Eastern Conference standings.
The NHL surrounded the rink with Christmas trees, fire wood, 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 49,967 fans to bundle up for the big game.
Rookie Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers. It was Schenn's first career goal.
Flyers center Danny Briere was stopped by Henrik Lundqvist on a penalty shot with 19 seconds left, as New York won for the third time this season against Philadelphia.
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.
One of the breakout stars of the show was benched.
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 got 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 star forward Jaromir Jagr, who played only a minute in the second period before leaving the game for good. The Flyers did not say what was wrong with the 39-year-old star, though he pointed to his back as he sat on the bench.
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.
Jagr never really got a chance to respond and the Flyers hope whatever is ailing their third-leading points 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 wasted no time scoring the winner, knocking in a rebound 3:20 later to put the Rangers up 3-2.
Lundqvist outplayed Bobrovsky, stopping 12 shots in the first and posting a flawless third.
His finest moment came in the waning moments when he stoned Briere with his pads when the All-Star center tried to sneak it through his legs.
With some fans paying six figures a seat on the secondary market, the stadium was full to the end.
For a brief moment in the second, Flyers fans thought they'd see a winner.
Schenn, a prized rookie sent over from Los Angeles in the Mike Richards deal over the summer, scored his first 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 uncovered. It was 41 degrees when the opening faceoff dropped just after 3 p.m., and temperatures fell over the next three hours. The start time was pushed back two hours to protect the rink from the sun.
New York received a dose of good news long before the final horn. Defenseman Marc Staal made his return to the lineup after a nearly yearlong absence from a concussion.
Staal, who turns 25 in January, has been out all season because of 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 Rangers are 3-0 vs. Philadelphia this season.