Just like that, Winter Classic weekend has come and gone. The New York Rangers still occupy first place in the Eastern Conference, thanks to their 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, but the weekend was about much more than just Game 37 on the regular season schedule for two rival hockey teams.
It was a celebration of two storied franchises, and more importantly, the game of hockey. Let's take a look at the top five moments of 2012 NHL Winter Classic weekend. (Yes, this is a Philadelphia-heavy list. The game was in Philadelphia. That's how it works.)
5. BRAYDEN SCHENN'S FIRST NHL GOAL
If you could hand-pick a time to score your first NHL goal, there's no doubt that you'd pick the exact time Brayden Schenn of the Flyers did. Henrik Lundqvist was a wall for the Rangers all afternoon long on Monday, and his defense had done a great job of clearing rebounds and beating the Flyers to loose pucks.
That is, until Schenn beat Ryan McDonagh to this one.
A first NHL goal at the Winter Classic, and it broke a scoreless tie in the second period, to boot. Probably just how he drew up the celebration, too.
It's been a tough couple of years for Schenn, who's been called the best prospect in hockey at times. He bounced around in three different leagues last year, unable to stick with the NHL's Kings, ultimately playing for two different teams in the Western Hockey League.
After being sent to Philadelphia in a blockbuster June trade, Schenn failed to crack the NHL squad in training camp thanks to a shoulder injury. Making his season debut in the AHL, Schenn was a monster, putting up five points in just two games, and it seemed like his NHL time was all but there for him.
He played just four games with the Flyers before breaking a bone in his foot while blocking a shot. After missing several weeks of action, Schenn returned for just two games before going down with a mild concussion. He made his most recent return to the lineup on December 27.
Through it all, Schenn played 18 NHL games and failed to score his first goal. Until the Winter Classic. Sort of makes up for all the struggles, even if his team didn't get the win.
4. ERIC LINDROS RETURNS TO PHILADELPHIA
The City of Philadelphia was not exactly fond of Eric Lindros for the better part of the last decade, but Winter Classic weekend saw No. 88 make his triumphant return to the Flyers organization. He was welcomed with open arms.
Not only did Lindros return and play in Saturday's Alumni Game, but he even helped open the scoring on a two-on-one rush with his former linemate, John LeClair. It was just like the 1990s again as Lindros blew past the opposing defenseman -- so what if said defenseman hasn't played in years? -- and dished off to No. 10, resulting in a huge roar from the crowd.
In my opinion, Lindros was the most dominant player of the 1990s, and his scoring ability -- 1.14 points per game over his entire career, even when concussions ravaged the later years of that career -- combined with his physical play made him a specimen that's almost incomparable in NHL history.
He was a player that defined an entire decade of Flyers hockey, and his absence from that clubs history was awkward and shameful for much of the last 10 years. It's like reconciling with your estranged brother after 10 years, and for Flyers fans, the feeling couldn't be sweeter.
3. MIKE RUPP COMES UP BIG
Without Mike Rupp's heroics in the 2012 Winter Classic, the orange-clad fans at the ballpark may have gone home happy on Monday. Rupp was the hero for the Rangers, scoring two goals and mocking Jaromir Jagr in the process.
The guy who only played 7:34 of total ice time in the game, lowest on the team? The guy who got beat up a year ago in the Winter Classic, when he was a member of the Penguins? The guy who called Flyers enforcer Jody Shelley irrelevant in front of the HBO cameras, despite playing almost virtually the exact same role?
Yeah, that guy. Not all that irrelevant in this one.
2. ONLY THE LORD SAVES MORE THAN BERNIE
Bernie Parent is a Hall of Fame goaltender. He won two Stanley Cups with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970s, but for generations of Flyers fans, he's just a guy in a white mask that was really good at hockey. They never had the chance to actually see him play, or to actually get to know the man that was a hero for the team they love.
But just as Lindros returned to the ice for the Flyers in the Alumni Game, so did Bernie, and it didn't matter that he's 66 years old. Parent played just five minutes in the Alumni Game, making a save on a Ron Duguay breakaway -- which Duguay, class act that he is, flubbed on purpose so Bernie could make the save.
He pitched the shutout, and the fans gave him a curtain call after he left the ice. Fitting, of course, because he said he only made the return for those fans.
"That's a lot of fun, you know? Duguay came down, didn't even shoot, made the little save on the breakaway. You know what? It was beautiful. ... It wasn't easy, but I love the people and that's why I did it."
1. LUNDQVIST vs. BRIERE PENALTY SHOT
The NHL and NBC couldn't have scripted it any better. A penalty shot -- probably a legitimate one, too, despite John Tortorella's conspiracy theories -- with 20 seconds left of a one goal hockey game? It was as dramatic as it could have been, and it all played out under the twilight and in front of a national television audience.
Briere has beaten Lundqvist before, most notably as part of that shootout in Game 82 of the 2009-10 season, when Philadelphia advanced to the playoffs by beating the Rangers in the penalty shot contest. Lundqvist has beaten Briere before, too, and he was just a tad bit quicker than the Flyer on the bright stage of the Winter Classic.
Briere wrote about that in his Winter Classic blog on NHL.com.
This game was going to overtime. That's all I had in my mind as I stood at center ice and waited to take the penalty shot in the last minute today. Coming in on Lundqvist, I had beaten him once on the blocker side, once on the glove side. He had stopped me a couple times before as well in shootouts, but I was still convinced I was going to score. I tried to surprise him with a quick little shot, unfortunately he was quicker than me. I've got to give him credit for that.
That seems to be the theme of the game, giving credit where credit is due to Lundqvist and the Rangers. They've now beaten Philadelphia three times this season, and they've proven that they're a force to be reckoned with in the Atlantic and the East. But as huge as Monday's hockey game itself was, it wasn't the only great story of a fantastic Winter Classic weekend at Citizens Bank Park.
For more on this year's Winter Classic, head over to SB Nation's Rangers blog Blueshirt Banter and Flyers blog Broad Street Hockey. For everything Winter Classic in the build-up to the game, head over to our NHL Winter Classic StoryStream.