The 26-year-old Lebda, who grew up in suburban Buffalo Grove, Ill., scored the Red Wings’ final goal of the NHL’s Winter Classic with 16:36 left in the third period.
Though his third goal of the season had to be reviewed, it held extra significance for the Chicago native.
“Just coming out …coming out of that dugout and seeing the sight, it was pretty cool,” Lebda said. “You’re usually on the other side of the fence there sitting in the stands, and just to be out there and playing in Wrigley Field was a pretty neat experience.”
With the Red Wings holding a 5-3 lead, an errant puck from Henrik Zetterberg
found its way to the young defenseman, who let a wrist shot fly from just above the slot. The puck hit goaltender Cristobal Huet, and directed high into the net. The referee closest to the net initially waved off the gaol, but the call was made to the replay booth.
The goal was confirmed after the review, giving the Wings the big lead that they never relinquished.
“I wish I would have known it went in right away,” Lebda said. “I would have changed my celebration a little bit, ha ha. But other than that, you can’t be picky, and I’m just glad we got the two points. It was a lot of fun. A good experience, I think, for all of us.
“And it was really a heart-felt experience for myself, just playing here at Wrigley, too.”
Being a Cubs’ fan his whole life made the day even more special for Lebda.
“Cubs all the way,” he said. “I don’t go to many Sox games. I loved the Cubs, grew up on the Cubs, and still go to a lot of games during the summer.”
Lebda tried to use his past Wrigley Field experiences to help out his teammates, warning them about the famous Windy City gusts that rip through the ballpark on occasion.
“That’s what I was telling the guys the whole week,” Lebda said. “I was worried about the wind because I’ve been in here when it’s been howling, and it can whip through here pretty good. … It wasn’t too bad.”
Lebda played 19 shifts for 11:40 worth of ice time.
Another Chicago native, Red Wings veteran defenseman Chris Chelios, said that it was great for Lebda, but wished that the goal would have been more prominent to the players and audience. The former Blackhawks’ captain said that he didn’t see Lebda’s goal go in.
“It’s great that he got it, being (from Chicago),” Chelios said. “I didn’t see it, and I don’t think he saw it. It happened so quick. Obviously, the crowd couldn’t see the puck because their reactions for the goals were a little delayed. It’s just too bad he couldn’t celebrate it right when he got it.”
Lebda was very complimentary of the event as a whole, as a Chicago native and participant, saying that the Winter Classic should only improve in the future.
“The ice was a lot better today than it was yesterday,” he said. “And I think with this new system, I think they’ll just get better and better as they do it and learn every year. So it wasn’t bad. It was playable and both teams had to deal with it.”