Winter Classic all Caps
Fehr scores last two goals of Washington’s win under Heinz Field lights
Under the lights — and a light rain — on the outdoor ice in Pittsburgh, Eric Fehr scores two goals and the Capitals skate to a New Year’s Day victory, 3-1.
pittsburgh — Not even unseasonably warm temperatures or the absence of any actual snow seemed to diminish the atmosphere of the first-ever NHL Winter Classic to be contested in prime time. Nor would a pushed-back start time or steady rain take the bite out of one of the league’s marquee rivalries between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
With Heinz Field filled to a standing-room-only capacity of 68,111, the Capitals prevailed, 3-1, over Pittsburgh in a matchup highlighted by rattling checks that showcased their heated animosity toward the Penguins on the NHL’s biggest stage aside from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The fourth annual Winter Classic was pushed back from its original start time scheduled for 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day to avoid early rain showers in the Pittsburgh area, but even as the revised 8 p.m. faceoff approached trepidations about the quality of the ice surface remained. Crews removed more than 3,000 gallons of water from the rink and worked to restore solidity throughout the day. The contest went off as planned in the evening.
Both teams appeared tentative in the early stages, adjusting to an ice surface that included some puddle spots and rough patches, but an early hit by Alex Ovechkin on Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek that rattled the glass out of place and required repairs in the first five minutes made it clear that conditions would not hinder intensity.
The first period would pass without a goal, but a lengthy fracas between Washington defenseman John Erskine and Mike Rupp midway through seemed to invigorate both squads. The best scoring chances of the opening 20 minutes came when
John Carlson and Mark Letestu rung shots off of goal posts just over a minute apart.
That momentum would carry over into the second, when the pace picked up even as a slight rain began to fall leaving beads of water on players helmets and fogged up visors.
EvgeniMalkin broke the deadlock just over two minutes into the second period, when he tallied his first goal in six games, with a wrist shot on a breakaway that found its way between goaltender Semyon Varlamov’s legs to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 edge. Despite the early goal against and conditions that often caused both he and the Penguins’ MarcAndre Fleury to slide out of their creases, Varlamov performed well and finished with 32 saves to earn his third consecutive win.
Washington’s penalty kill would make its first key appearance after Malkin’s goal, thwarting a goaltender interference call against Brooks Laich to prevent the Penguins from building up any additional steam. The Capitals extinguished all of Pittsburgh power-play chances.
Meanwhile, the Capitals would knot the game up when their own struggling power play cashed in to make it 1-1 with just under seven minutes gone in the middle stanza. After an initial shot by Nicklas Backstrom, chaos erupted around the Pittsburgh net as Washington converged in search of an ugly rebound — Mike Knuble found it when he poked for the puck under Fleury’s pads repeatedly until knocking it over the goal line. The marker prompted pockets of Capitals’ faithful, clad famously in red to spring to their feet throughout the stadium.
After narrowly missing a chance to seize momentum when Jason Chimera’s wrap-around attempt was blocked by Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik, Washington took its first lead of the contest at 14 minutes 45 seconds. Fleury bobbled the puck when he tried to play it behind his net and rookie Marcus Johansson fished the puck out from behind the goal line and sent it to Eric Fehr, who fired into a yawning cage for his first goal of the night.
Washington would carry the 2-1 lead into the intermission but as time expired after 40 minutes, 6-foot-5 Capitals forward David Steckel collided with Pittsburgh captain, 5-11 Sidney Crosby. On replay it appeared as though Steckel’s right shoulder hit the left side of Crosby’s head, sending him tumbling to the ice.
Crosby returned to the ice for the start of the third, when rain, which had continued to fall sporadically, picked up significantly with about 17 minutes remaining in regulation.
Despite what appeared to be worsening conditions, Fehr scored again with a shot that beat Fleury high glove side, entering the net just under the cross bar, at 11:59 of the third after a give-and-go at the neutral zone with Chimera to make it 3-1 in favor of Washington. It marked Fehr’s first two-goal game of the season. The added cushion allowed the Capitals’ fans in Heinz Field to drown out a substantially larger Pittsburgh contingent with their usual “C-AP-S, Caps, Caps, Caps” cheer as time wound down at the end of the contest.
Washington is now 8-0-2 in the past 10 regular season contests against the Penguins.
Eric Fehr sends the puck into the back of the net past Penguins goalieMarc-Andre Fleury for the game-winning goal Saturday night. Fehr added a goal in the third period. Mike Knuble also scored for the Capitals.
Jason Chimera (25) celebrates with Eric Fehr (16) after Fehr's goal gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead at 14:45 of the second period. Fehr added another score at 11:59 of the third period, his seventh goal of the season.
David Steckel of the Capitals and Sidney Crosby face off at the start of the Winter Classic. Washington rallied after allowing the first goal.