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Penguins Reflect On Winter Classic

by Joe Sager / Pittsburgh Penguins

The AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic left many lasting impressions.

The Pittsburgh Penguins certainly have their share, especially since they posted a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in an overtime shootout

"It was just awesome, if you can use one word to describe it," Ryan Malone said. "From top to bottom, I think Buffalo did a great job of putting the show on and it was just something where you sit back on the bench and look around and see the snow coming down and the crowd. You just took in the moment, every ounce you could."

There were many unforgettable visuals on the day - from the packed stands at Ralph Wilson Stadium, to the Penguins taking the ice while a heavy snow fell and Sidney Crosby sliding the puck past Ryan Miller to end the contest, to name a few.

"I think I was smiling the whole time," Malone said. "It was just something that you just go out there and that's what hockey is - that's where it all started. I think everyone was just happy to be there. To get the two points made it extra special."

Teammate Colby Armstrong agreed.

"You mostly want to have fun out there and take it all in," he said. "I think everyone had a good time, on our team and their team. I think it was just a real good event."

The snow, heavy at times, caused the players to improvise their style of play.

"It was a little bit tough. It was hard to stickhandle. Skating, you don't get as good a glide," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "It's just one of those things where everyone has to work a little harder to get things done. I think the goalies, when they pushed, they weren't going as far. It took everyone a little more effort to do things maybe they take for granted normally."

The snowy conditions contributed to the game's first goal when Armstrong banged in Crosby's rebound 21 seconds into the contest.

"I didn't know what to expect. In warmups, it was tough getting the eyes adjusted with the snow falling in your face," Armstrong said. "Right off the start, there was a lot of snow on the ice especially, which helped create the turnover, which allowed Sid to cut to the net and it just happened to go on my stick. It was a pretty cool feeling with all those people there and with such a big event.

"It was great to get that goal. There were so many fans there that it was crazy. To get it right off the bat was nice," he continued. "I can't explain that feeling with that many people there. It was awesome. We ended up winning the game, too, which was even greater. It was a great day."

The snowy conditions on the ice affected the game's shootout, too. However, Crosby was able to maneuver the pack past Miller for the win.

"Yeah, for sure. I don't think I stickhandled once until I was right in front of the goalie," he said. "I was just pushing the puck the whole time."

Overall, the cold temperatures did not have a major effect on the players.

"It was a little bit cold in the warmups. Once you get a little warm, probably like four minutes in and you start moving a bit, you're fine," Armstrong said. "It wasn't as cold as I thought it'd be. I think my feet were colder [Wednesday] in practice than they were during the game. Everything went well."

However, the game took a bigger physical toll on the players since they had to work harder to skate.

"I am a little bit more stiff, probably, than normal [Wednesday], but it's worth it," Crosby said. "It was a great experience. You play tough games, sometimes in different circumstances, but you play tough games and it happens and I don't see it being a big issue."

Whenever they could, especially while sitting on the bench, the players just soaked up the rowdy and fun environment with close to 72,000 fans in attendance.

"It was unbelievable. It was great to see all the fans there," Armstrong said. "It was nice to see a lot of Pittsburgh fans, too. They didn't stop rocking the whole game. The fans were great."

And, the storybook finish to the game featuring Crosby, the NHL's reigning scoring champion and MVP, netting the winning goal in front of a national audience was unforgettable.

"It's probably the way the NHL drew it up for this game. The NHL probably didn't want it to end any other way," Armstrong said with a laugh. "I think it was great for the league. There were a couple big hits, the snow was falling down and then Sid scored the winner. It was a great finish to a pretty cool game."

Malone thought it was the perfect ending: "I think the hockey gods always work in mysterious ways. He was due for one of those big goals like that."

With the NHL Winter Classic out of the way, the Penguins were happy to be back home on the Mellon Arena ice.

"The ice felt great here. I don't think we'll ever complain about the ice here anymore," Malone said with a laugh. "Both teams had to deal with it in Buffalo. It was something that hampered those pretty plays a little bit, but I think overall the game went well for both sides."

The Penguins battle the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night and are looking forward to getting back into the normal game routine.

"It's going to be good to be back inside with no delays or stoppages, but that was a fun experience and it was pretty cool to be a part of something so big and so fun," Armstrong said.

Would the Penguins play in another outdoor game?

"If the opportunity presents itself again, I'd do it, for sure," Crosby said. "That was a pretty cool experience for all the players and all the fans."

"I'd like to do it again, for sure. It was quite an experience," Armstrong said. "Everything that went into it, it was unbelievable how they set it up. I don't know how they did it in such a short time. It was great."

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