The 18,200 members of the Blueshirts Faithful surely were not looking too far ahead to Sunday night's Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots when they packed Madison Square Garden for a Sunday matinee between the Rangers and Flyers. And the Blueshirts themselves were not looking past the task at hand either as the Rangers skated to a 5-2 victory over the Flyers Sunday afternoon.
The Rangers have now won all four games against their nearest competition in the Atlantic Division this season---including all three games played at The Garden---and the Blueshirts have widened their lead in the division to five points over the Flyers, while holding a pair of games in hand on Philly.
Wearing their Winter Classic sweaters for only the second time this season, the Rangers gave a collective passionate effort in a contest that saw the two teams amass 72 penalty minutes. Rookie defenseman Stu Bickel sparked his team with a pair of rousing fights---and totaled 16 penalty minutes---while Brandon Dubinsky and Brandon Prust also engaged in fights. Philly's Tom Sestito was given a game misconduct for receiving three fighting majors in the game.
Reunited with linemates Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan, Rangers winger Artem Anisimov notched a season-best three points---scoring the game-opening goal on a deflection just 64 seconds into the game, while adding a pair of assists later on. Anisimov had gone 17 games without recording a point prior to Sunday.
Anisimov's goal held up until 12:02 of the second period when Brayden Schenn scored on a breakaway after exiting the penalty box and accepting a long pass behind the Rangers defense from Jakub Voracek. That goal snapped Henrik Lundqvist's career-best shutout streak at 182 minutes and 37 seconds. Lundqvist would go on to finish with 21 saves to record his 24th win of the season on Sunday.
Gaborik shook off a thunderous hit into the back boards by Andrej Meszaros late in the second period to receive a pass and finish with a wraparound goal with 5.1 seconds remaining in the period to hand the Rangers a 2-1 lead. The goal was Gaborik's team-high 26th of the season. He finished with a goal and an assist in the game.
Thirty-six seconds after Wayne Simmonds tied the game early in the third period, Michael Del Zotto jumped into the play and beat Ilya Bryzgalov at 1:33 to restore the Blueshirts lead. Dubinsky would add a goal at 12:15 before Ruslan Fedotenko scored into the empty net with 1:16 left to play to seal the victory.
With the win the Rangers, who are 4-1-1- in their last six games, remain three points ahead of the Boston Bruins---who also won on Sunday---for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.