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For Thomas, skating with family his Classic moment

by Dan Rosen
Tim Thomas' most vivid memory from his Winter Classic experience has nothing to do with a save he made, a win he earned or the Team USA jersey he donned when it was over at Fenway Park nearly 11 months ago.

No, for Thomas, the Boston Bruins' goalie, this one is personal.

"The family skate that we got to have the day before," Thomas told "That was my younger daughter's first time ever skating and she was actually pretty good."

Kelsey Thomas, now 6, joined Tim, mom Melissa, older sister Kylie and the rest of the Bruins' families on the ice at Fenway Park the afternoon of Dec. 31.

The snow was falling. The temperature was brisk, but not bad. The moment simply was perfect.

"I have a picture and it's been out in the open in our house so I see it every once in a while," Thomas said. "I always think of that when I think of the Winter Classic."

Thomas also thinks about the flurry of saves he had to make in overtime, back-to-back stops on Danny Briere and Braydon Coburn, seconds before Marco Sturm scored the memorable winner for the Bruins, who snatched a 2-1 win away from the Philadelphia Flyers.

"It's not inside a rink, so looking at an open sky instead of a ceiling -- of course I ended up on my back -- was amazing," Thomas said. "It reminded me of when I played in high school. We'd have practices on this outdoor arena and with the sky and everything -- it was really the same type of feeling."

The whole feel was amazing for the Bruins.

More than 57 minutes had to pass before they gave the frigid Fenway faithful a reason to go crazy, but in a matter of 10 minutes the Bruins turned a 1-0 deficit into a stunning victory.

Mark Recchi deflected Derek Morris' shot past Flyers goalie Michael Leighton 17:42 into the third period to send the 38,112 inside the old ballpark into hysterics. Sturm then tipped a pass from Patrice Bergeron by Leighton 1:57 into overtime.

"It's a great thing and it's different," Recchi said of his goal, easily the most unique of the 564 he's scored over his 22-year career. "It's a lot different than playoff goals and stuff like that, but it's a cool thing. It's a real cool, special thing that you won't forget. At Fenway Park, there was nothing better than being out there. The weather was perfect that day. The atmosphere was just awesome."

Blake Wheeler said the Bruins were worried for a little while that they would be remembered as the team that couldn't score in a Winter Classic. There have been three of them and four NHL outdoor games when you count the 2003 Heritage Classic, and every team has scored at least one goal.

"We had our troubles scoring goals all year and probably never would have heard the end of it if we didn't score a goal there," Wheeler told "When Sturmy scored it was a great feeling. Guys were pumped. It didn't feel like you just won a hockey game, it felt like something more.

"The whole nostalgia, the whole game -- it wasn't anything like a regular hockey game."

The Winter Classic never is, but on Jan. 1, 2010, the Bruins got to put their own spin on it.

"I was on the ice (for Sturm's winner) and that was the peak of everything," captain Zdeno Chara told "That place went nuts. I remember they started to sing 'Sweet Caroline,' and from that point it was great to see how the fans were really enjoying it. It was awesome. There were fireworks."

Ideally the drama, emotion, atmosphere and, yes, weather will be the same at Heinz Field on New Year's Day for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, between Pittsburgh and Washington.

If Thomas has any advice for the Capitals and Penguins, who have only six players remaining from the squad that played in the inaugural Winter Classic in Buffalo three years ago, it's to have fun creating those lasting memories, whatever they may be.

"Knowing Alexander Ovechkin and his personality, that shouldn't be a problem," Thomas said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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