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Richards gets outdoor winner

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Brad Richards watches his game-winning goal go over Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov and into the net with one minute left in regulation on Saturday. (Photo by Getty Images)

DENVER -- Brad Richards is not just an NHL veteran, he's an NHL outdoor game veteran.

By playing in the Stadium Series game Saturday at Denver's Coors Field against the Colorado Avalanche, Richards became the first player to appear in five outdoor NHL regular-season games.

There are seven players who have played in four NHL outdoor games.

Richards played in last season's Winter Classic with the Chicago Blackhawks, in two Stadium Series games with the New York Rangers in 2014 and in the Winter Classic with the Rangers in 2012.

Perhaps Richards drew on that extensive experience as the Red Wings and Avalanche were knotted at 3 with the third period coming to an end.

Niklas Kronwall took a shot from the point, which popped out to the left side of the net.

Richards skated in and flipped the puck toward the goal mouth.

Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov appeared to get a piece of it but the puck ended up in the net.

"I saw it go back towards Kronner and thought that he was going to keep it in and got lucky that he put it on net, which is a good play by him," Richards said. "I got lucky that it came right to me and I had a little bit of time to chip it at the goalie. I'd be lying if I told you I tried to put it in there. I was just trying to chip it towards the net. He was kind of out of position and I don't know if it hit his back or something but we'll take those."

With exactly one minute remaining to play, the Wings had a 4-3 lead.

It is the 10th go-ahead goal scored at 19:00 or later of regulation this season and the second in the last five NHL regular-season outdoor games.

Washington's Troy Brouwer had a goal at 19:47 of the third to lift the Capitals to a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Winter Classic at Nationals Park.soeca

Darren Helm sealed the deal with an empty-net goal with 19.3 seconds left in the third for the 5-3 final.

It is not the first time Richards has gotten the game-winning goal in an outdoor game.

He also scored the game-winner in the 2012 Winter Classic as the Rangers defeated the Flyers at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, making him the only player to score more than one game-winning goal in outdoor games.

"When you play in so many, you're bound to score one of the game-winners there," said Andreas Athanasiou, who played on a line with Richards and Dylan Larkin. "It's a great way to score there at the end and it's a huge two points for us."

The Wings are the first team since the 2012 Rangers to win an NHL outdoor game when trailing after two periods. The Avalanche had a 2-1 lead to start the third.

While they have not officially announced next year's Winter Classic or any other outdoor games yet, there was a rumor that the Wings and Leafs could be involved in an outdoor game in Toronto.

Richards signed just a one-year deal before the season so if the Wings do end up in another outdoor game, maybe they'd better re-sign him.

Whether this was Richards' last NHL outdoor game or not, it's something he says he'll always remember.

"It was a special weekend to be a part of," Richards said. "Just growing up, anytime I wanted to watch hockey, I wanted to watch Colorado or Detroit.  There's so many great players. So to be part of this history of that rivalry, being around, seeing some of the guys yesterday and knowing they played. And it's a huge two points for our team and a great experience.

"It was a pretty neat night under the lights and the way it was presented. They're all special though, especially the ones you win. This will be a great memory."

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