After six months of build up, hype and anticipation, the Penguins and Capitals finally squared off in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
It was a magnificent atmosphere as Heinz Field hosted 68,111 fans in a prime time outdoor showcase that had to start at 8 p.m. instead of 1 p.m. due to weather.
The ice surface and weather conditions were major factors for both teams, but in the end the Capitals skated away from Pittsburgh with a 3-1 victory.
It was a close, tight checking game, but the Capitals took a 2-1 lead into the third period. The Penguins’ hopes of a comeback became more daunting when a monsoon of rain fell in the third period on an already wet and soft playing surface.
Bouncing pucks kept Pittsburgh out of sync and the Penguins were unable to play their normal up-tempo, attacking style. Pittsburgh was forced to dump pucks deep and just couldn’t find a way to crack goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
Despite the loss, the experience was unforgettable. The Penguins, Capitals, Steelers, NHL and the City of Pittsburgh gave fans around the world memories that will last a lifetime.
Jordan Staal had to wait for the 87th day of the regular season to make his debut in the 2010-11 campaign. Staal was finally rewarded for six months of intense and frustrating rehab by taking the ice in the NHL’s signature event – the Bridgestone Winter Classic.
Staal, who has battled through foot and hand injuries that forced him out of the first 39 games of the year, played 14:38 minutes of ice time, recorded two shots, three hits and won 11 of 18 faceoffs (61 percent).
Staal, arguably the team’s best penalty killer, also saw some time on the PK. He had a great chance on a 2-on-1, got great body position in the slot and ripped a shot on goal that was stopped by Semyon Varlamov.
The Penguins were trying to mount a comeback in the third period. Pittsburgh was trailing 2-1 with less than 10 minutes left in the contest. Despite the adverse conditions, the Penguins were only one good shot away from tying the game.
That was until the 11:59 mark.
Eric Fehr split the Penguins defense, collected a pass and ripped a shot over the shoulder of Marc-Andre Fleury for his second goal of the game to give Washington a 3-1 advantage. With eight minutes left, the torrential downpour and a two-goal deficit were too much for the Penguins to overcome.
(AP) - Eric Fehr upstaged stars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin by scoring twice and the Washington Capitals waded through rain drops to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in a wet Winter Classic on Saturday night.
It was the NHL's first nighttime Winter Classic, and the first played in occasional rain, but the Capitals handled the elements - and a scoreless Crosby - just fine.
Fehr gave Washington its first lead at 2-1 in the second period after Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury abandoned the net, then sealed it with a breakaway goal in the third.
• Evgeni Malkin opened the Winter Classic scoring two minutes into the second period. Kris Letang made a great breakout pass from his own zone off the boards to Malkin in the neutral zone (a smart play by Chris Kunitz to not pick up the puck and let it go to Malkin). Malkin moved in on a semi-breakaway and snapped a shot through the five-hole of Semyon Varlamov. Marc-Andre Fleury picked up an assist on the play.
• The Penguins and Capitals were crashing the nets hard. In fact, both teams had apparent goals disallowed due to incidental contact with goaltenders. Craig Adams appeared to tie the game at 2-2 late in the second period, but Mike Rupp had collided with Varlamov. Alex Ovechkin buried a shot into an open net late in the third period. But the net was open because Ovechkin knocked Marc-Andre Fleury to the ice when the two got tangled.
• There was a scary moment in the final seconds of the second period for Sidney Crosby. The Penguins captain and Washington’s David Steckel ran into each other. It appeared that Steckel hit Crosby in the head, and he was woozy as he skated to the bench. However, Crosby was able to return to the ice to finish the third period for Pittsburgh.
• There were great pregame festivities before the Winter Classic got underway. The Penguins and Capitals walked down the right way next each other as they took the ice. Maxime Talbot jumped on the ice waving his Terrible Towel. Penguins co-owner/Hall of Famer/legend Mario Lemieux, Steelers running backs Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis and U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Bradley T. Tinstman took part in the ceremonial puck drop. Fans in the closed end zone of Heinz Field flipped cards displaying the Canadian and American flags as their respective anthems were sung. The place was buzzing as Penguins captain Sidney Crosby won the opening faceoff.