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New York Rangers down Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2, take Atlantic Division lead

December 24, 2011

In a preview of the January 2nd Outdoor NHL Winter Classic in Philadelphia, the New York Rangers took the Atlantic Division lead with a 4-2 win over the Flyers at Madison Square Garden last night. The game tied 0-0 after the first period, the Rangers scored twice in the second and never looked back. They’re now even with Philadelphia in the standings with 46 points, but have a game in hand, and trail the Boston Bruins by only one point in the conference standings.

There’s still more than half a season to play, but this is my 7th season covering the Rangers and I haven’t seen a more dominant team through the end of December. Their league-low 8 regulation losses is especially impressive considering they’ve played without All-Star defenseman Marc Staal all season (concussion) and have more recently lost defensemen Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger to injury. Half of the Rangers defensemen in last night’s lineup were 22 or younger, and one of the “older” three, Stu Bickel (born after the release of Back to the Future I, but before Back to the Future II), picked up two assists in only his third NHL game. A dominant year so far by Marian Gaborik (21 goals through 33 games), a slew of other scoring threats (including Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov) and two goalies at the top of their game (Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron) could mean a season that lasts well into May and hopefully June.

Photos ©Madison Square Garden, L.P.

Philadelphia Flyer Jaromir Jagr returned to the Garden for the first time since his days as a Ranger from 2004-2008, seen here with New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh:

Philadelphia Flyer Jaromir Jagr returned to the Garden for the first time since his days as a Ranger from 2004-2008, seen here with New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh

New York had a number of big hits against Philadelphia players, including Stu Bickel on Tom Sestito…

New York had a number of big hits against Philadelphia players, including Stu Bickel on Tom Sestito

…and Anton Stralman on Matt Read:

Anton Stralman checks Matt Read

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and the Flyers’ Jakub Voracek:

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and the Flyers Jakub Voracek

New York’s Anton Stralman:

New York's Anton Stralman

Rangers (and Christmas) super-fan Dancing Larry gets the crowd pumped:

Rangers (and Christmas) super-fan Dancing Larry gets the crowd pumped

The Flyers finally slip one past Henrik Lundqvist, who was screened by James Van Riemsdyk, late in the game:

The Flyers finally slip one past Henrik Lundqvist, who was screened by James Van Riemsdyk, late in the game

Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux faces off against New York’s Brad Richards:

Philadelphia's Claude Giroux faces off against New York's Brad Richards

Rangers captain Ryan Callahan celebrates his goal with teammates late in the third period, giving them a 4-1 lead:

Rangers captain Ryan Callahan celebrates his goal with teammates late in the third period, giving them a 4-1 lead

All smiles for the Rangers and head coach John Tortorella:

All smiles for the Rangers and head coach John Tortorella

Henrik Lundqvist salutes the crowd after being named the #1 star of the game:

Henrik Lundqvist salutes the crowd after being named the #1 star of the game

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