NHL Winter Classic 2014: Top Performers for Maple Leafs and Red Wings

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NHL Winter Classic 2014: Top Performers for Maple Leafs and Red Wings
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Hockey fans were treated to an overtime thriller when the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 at Michigan Stadium in the 2014 NHL Winter Classic. 

NBC Sports detailed the thrilling win, as Toronto won by way of shootout after neither team managed to close the game out in the overtime period:

The crowd of 105,491 rabid fans set a new world record, as pointed out by AIHL:

Those fans braved snowy conditions at the Big House to see one of the most thrilling games of the year. There were plenty of noteworthy performances, but these upcoming players stood above their peers. Here's a look at the best performances from the 2014 Winter Classic.

 

Tyler Bozak, C, Toronto Maple Leafs 

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Nobody dominated the Winter Classic like Tyler Bozak did. 

The talented center was quiet for much of the first two periods before emerging as the player of the game in the third and on through the overtime periods.

He only took one shot on goal in the game, but he made the most out of his opportunity. Dion Phaneuf's shot went high and wide at the 4:41 mark of the third period when Bozak redirected the puck into the net to give Toronto a 2-1 lead, as shown by the team on Twitter:

He then made the game-winner on the final shootout attempt for the Maple Leafs—a walk-off, if you will—sending Detroit home with a bitter taste in its mouth. 

Bozak is in the midst of a terrific six-game stretch, as Jonas Siegel of TSN Radio 1050 pointed out:

If he continues his hot play, then the Leafs will continue to surge in the month of January. 

 

Brendan Smith, D, Detroit Red Wings

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Red Wings may not have been close in this one if not for the fine play of Brendan Smith, as hockey fan Josh Howard pointed to: 

He didn't score a goal, and he didn't land any huge hits, but his two assists sparked Detroit's two goals. 

Additionally, he logged significant minutes (22:23) and was the only player on Detroit's roster who was in the game for both team scores, finishing the contest plus-two during his time on the ice. 

Unfortunately, he and his teammates were unable to get the job done, but they certainly put up a valiant fight. 

 

Carl Gunnarsson, D, Toronto Maple Leafs

One of the reasons Detroit had trouble getting the puck into the net on New Year's Day in Ann Arbor was Carl Gunnarsson's fine play on defense for Toronto.

In particular, his stop of Dennis Cleary's shot in the second period was a thing of beauty. 

The Leafs were plus-two during the minutes when Gunnarsson was on the ice. He played more minutes than any player on either team besides Phaneuf, making each one count.

In addition to his excellent defense around the goal, Gunnarsson laid four big hits on Detroit players, making his presence felt as an enforcer for Toronto. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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