The NHL’s Amped Winter Classic was just that; the players and fans were amped, it was definitely winter weather, and it turned out to be a real classic! The Pittsburgh Penguins needed 65-minutes of skating and a shootout, but they beat the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium on New Year’s Day by a score of 2-1. As if scripted by NHL marketeers, the game went all the way to a shootout and the deciding goal was scored by none other than Sidney Crosby.
It was a game that saw almost everything Mother Nature could whip up for a nice winter’s day. With temperatures hovering around the freezing mark and winds blowing 15-20 mph, there was a little bit of rain, some sleet and snow to add to the challenges on ice. The scene really could not have been more idyllic. The weather conditions resulted in a lot of unscheduled mid-period resurfacing of the ice, as accumulating snow granules caused the puck to slow and bounce around. The league did a pretty good job of keeping the ice clear after the first cleaning during the first period. There were also several stoppages of play to correct some on-ice divits. This resulted in a game that did not have the normal flow of an indoor NHL game.
The Penguins stunned the crowd of 70,000+ fans as they scored on their very first shift of the game following a power drive to the net by Sidney Crosby that resulted in a goal by Colby Armstrong. Crosby flew down the boards and around a Sabres defenseman to pull up in front of goaltender Ryan Miller. Crosby was unable to put the puck past Miller, but the rebound landed on the stick of Colby Armstrong who threw it into the net, just 21 seconds into the game. It looked like the beginning of an offensively loaded game for the Penguins, but it would be their only regulation goal of the game. Pittsburgh had 3 chances on the power play in the 1st period, but was unable to convert. They did manage to kill off their only short-handed situation as Colby Armstrong sat for goaltender interference. Taking advantage of the man-advantages, the Penguins outshot the Sabres 11-9 in the 1st period.
In the second period, the Buffalo Sabres scored quickly on a goal by Brian Campbell at 1:25, after he found himself alone near the circle and drilled the puck past Ty Conklin. Tim Connolly and Daniel Paille were credited with the assists. After the goal, the Sabres went to work and outplayed the Penguins for the remainder of the period. The Sabres outshot the Penguins 14-2, with Ty Conklin coming up big in net to keep them in the game.
In the 3rd, the Penguins offense returned to form as they outshot the Sabres 12-7. But neither team was able to get one past the goaltenders despite several close calls. In the last second of the 3rd period, Colby Armstrong was called for a hooking penalty in front of his own net, putting the Penguins at a man-disadvantage for the first 2-minutes of the sudden death overtime. The Penguins managed to weather the penalty kill in overtime, and hung on to force the shootout after being outshot 7-0 in the extra frame.
In the shootout, Ty Conklin gave up a goal to the first Sabres shooter, Ales Kotalik, before shutting the door on Tim Connolly and Maxim Afinogenov. For the Penguins, the shooters were predictably Erik Christensen, Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby. Christensen lost the puck and missed on his chance. Kris Letang made it a perfect 4 for 4 on the shootout as he deked and beat the Sabres tender stick side. Then, with the game on his stick, Sidney Crosby skated in on Ryan Miller, anticipated the poke check and let off a quick wrister that slipped through the five-hole of Miller to win the game.
- VIDEO: Winter Classic 2008 Video Highlights
- PHOTOS: Winter Classic 2008 Photos
- AUDIO: Mike Lange Highlights
- AUDIO: Post-Game Hotline
- OFFICIAL NHL: Game Rosters
- OFFICIAL NHL: Game Summary
- OFFICIAL NHL: Boxscore
- OFFICIAL NHL: Play-by-Play
- OFFICIAL NHL: Shootout Summary
The win improves the Penguins record to 21-16-2 and an impressive 13-5-0 since Thanksgiving. The Penguins return home to host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, January 3rd, at Mellon Arena.