Winter Classic 2011

Published on January 1st, 2011

Winter Classic 2011

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh

by Mike del Tufo

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals battled in the 4th annual Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on New Year’s Day 2011 and the Caps won convincingly 3-1.  It was contested outside in a football stadium with over 65,000 fans in attendance.

Caps superstar winger Alexander Ovechkin on the atmosphere of playing in a football stadium said, “It was one of the best feelings in my life.  Again, when you see it’s sold out, it’s like I can’t imagine when football players play every game like this.  It’s unbelievable.  And it’s kind of the thing, what you want to do all the time.  Go out and play like this all the time.”

Pens superstar center Sidney Crosby agreed.  “It’s an amazing feeling.  And I said the same thing when we played in Buffalo.  But it’s pretty easy to see why you see those guys so pumped up every week.  Coming down the tunnel, it’s a pretty amazing feeling.  And playing hockey in front of that many people, it’s something that probably none of us ever dreamed of doing.  Would have been nice to be on the other side of things, but it’s still a privilege to be part of that.  And we had amazing support.  The event was great.”

The Pens and Caps have arguably the most intense rivalry in the league with Ovechkin and Crosby at the center of it and it was one of the reasons the two teams were chosen for this special outdoor game that showcased the league nationally.  They had previously played 9 days before in Washington D.C. with the Pens winning in a shoot-out 3-2.  This was the 2nd of 4 meetings between the teams this season.  Semyon Varlamov started in net for the Caps and Marc-Andre Fleury for the Pens.

This game was originally scheduled for 1pm but was pushed back to 8pm due to the threat of rain.  The weather ended being a factor in the 3rd period as it rained quite a bit then but both teams were hampered by it equally. The 1st period saw the 2nd fight in the brief history of the Winter Classic.  Michael Rupp of the Pens squared off against John Erskine of the Caps.  The crowd enjoyed this tilt.  Considering the dislike between these two squads, a couple of fighting majors surprised few.  The 1st period saw a lot of action but neither team was able to get on the board.

The Pens struck first when Evgeni Malkin scored at 2:13 of the 2nd period to ignite the home crowd.  There was quite a contingent of Capital fans that had made the 3 to 4 hour journey from DC to Pittsburgh though and they were making a lot of noise as well when Caps winger Mike Knuble converted on the power-play at 6:54.  Then at 14:45, the Caps took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Eric Fehr.  Near the end of the 2nd, it looked as if the Pens had re-tied it but a goal was waved off due to incidental contact by the Pens on the Caps goalie Varlamov.

In the 3rd, the Pens seemed to be on the verge of getting the equalizing goal but Varlamov was strong in net.  Then at 11:59, Fehr struck again to give the Caps a 3-1 lead.  The Caps then seemed to have gotten a goal by Ovechkin but it was also waved off due to incidental contact on the goalie.  Varlamov and the Caps held off the Pens’ attack the rest of the way for a strong 3-1 win.

On the play of his Varlamov, Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau said, “It shows that he can play in pressure situations.  And he sort of just took it mentally on him that he wasn’t going to allow anything.  He’s in pretty good zone right now shutting out Montreal the last game.”

On the game, Boudreau said, “It was a fabulous game.  And we came in wanting to win this thing.  We got lucky and we won it.”  He continued, “It’s an experience I’ll never forget.  And when you come into this kind of atmosphere and you’re playing arguably the best team in the league and you win, it was more than just a game to everybody…It was a game that we wanted to show people that have never played hockey or watched hockey how good it could be, how exciting it could be.  The passion on the guys’ faces when they scored a goal was totally genuine…I thought it was a real good game for the growth of the game.  And I hope it does grow because of this.”

Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. Photo credit: Mike del Tufo.

The two teams play in Washington D.C. on February 6th and in Pittsburgh again on February 21st.

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