There's nothing quite like the Winter Classic, the NHL's outdoor showcase. And this year's iteration didn't disappoint, as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings in a penalty shootout, 3-2 (2-1).
In a wintry Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor filled to the brim, the Red Wings and Maple Leafs put on a show, with Tyler Bozak eventually scoring the game-winning shootout goal for Toronto. Daniel Alfredsson and Justin Abdelkader scored in regulation for the Red Wings, while James van Riemsdyk and Bozak scored the goals in the first 60 minutes for the Maple Leafs.
As always, the Winter Classic lived up to its label as one of the finest annual traditions in sports. If you've never seen a football stadium transform into a hockey arena, enjoy the following video from NHL.com:
The game started in truly wonderful fashion, as the teams came out to the roar of over 100,000 fans packed in Michigan Stadium. The NHL's official Twitter account captured the moment:
To be precise, 105,491 fans were in attendance, as Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press tweeted:
Here's a view from the stands, via the NHL on Instagram:
Maple Leafs player Jake Gardiner commented on the experience:
The first period came and went without much incident. Each team went on the power play, but both sides struggled to get anything going offensively with snow coming down at a steady clip. The first power play, awarded to Toronto, seemed quite apt, as Jon Morosi of Fox Sports noted:
The period ended with the Red Wings holding the advantage in shots, 13 to five, while the Maple Leafs preferred to take the physical route, out-hitting Detroit 17 to four.
Just over 13 minutes elapsed in the second period before the Red Wings finally notched the first goal.
Detroit caught Toronto on a line change and surged up the ice, with Henrik Zetterberg and Alfredsson working the two-on-one. Zetterberg whipped a centering feed to Alfredsson, who couldn't get his stick on it, but saw the puck carom off his skate and into the net.
It was deemed that Alfredsson made no kicking motion with his skate, however, and the goal stood. ESPN Stats and Information has more info on the goal:
The goal seemed to really wake up the Red Wings, as they quickly earned a power play after the goal and began a full-fledged assault on Toronto's goal. Jonathan Bernier made several huge saves, however, preserving the one-goal deficit.
With just 36.5 seconds remaining in the second period, the Maple Leafs tied things up. Just moments after he missed a chance to knock in a goal, van Riemsdyk tied the proceedings on a Maple Leafs power play, with Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf earning the assists.
Controversy emerged five minutes into the third period, as Bozak deflected the puck into the net after winning a face off in Detroit's zone. Red Wings goalkeeper Jimmy Howard immediately motioned for a high stick on the play, however, and officials reviewed the play.
After the review, they upheld the goal, giving Toronto a 2-1 lead. You can see that goal via the Maple Leafs' Twitter account:
An entertaining third period had one more twist, as the Red Wings tied things up with just over 5:32 remaining in the game. Abdelkader tipped home a Brendan Smith effort, setting the table for a wild finish at the snowy Winter Classic.
The Detroit fans let out a roar after that goal, as the NHL shared on Vine:
The game headed to overtime shortly after that, with the teams tied at two goals a piece. They don't call it the Classic for nothing, after all.
Neither team could earn the winner in overtime despite several big chances in a frantic final minute—including the Maple Leafs Cody Franson hitting the pipe—leading to a penalty shootout. After two misses, Pavel Datsyuk scored for Detroit and Joffrey Lupul for Toronto. After another Bernier save, Bozak was set up to be the hero, and he didn't disappoint.
|Winter Classic Grades|
|Jonathan Bernier||Toronto Maple Leafs||A|
|James Van Riemsdyk||Toronto Maple Leafs||A-|
|Phil Kessel||Toronto Maple Leafs||B+|
|Tyler Bozak||Toronto Maple Leafs||A|
|Jimmy Howard||Detroit Red Wings||B+|
|Henrik Zetterberg||Detroit Red Wings||B+|
|Daniel Alfredsson||Detroit Red Wings||B+|
|Justin Abdelkader||Detroit Red Wings||B|
Top Star: Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs
The man who scored the go-ahead goal for the Maple Leafs in the third period eventually won it for them. While both Bernier and Howard were both brilliant throughout in net—and van Riemsdyk was a tour de force crashing toward the net—Bozak proved to be the game's clutch performer in a contest with little separating the two sides.
The Red Wings travel to face the Dallas Stars on Saturday, January 4, while the Maple Leafs host the New York Rangers that same day.