NHL Winter Classic 2011: Top 10 Moments From the Capitals-Penguins Matchup
This year's Winter Classic had so much more anticipation than Winter Classics of the past. This year it was rivals Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, and the two greatest players in the game right now, Crosby vs. Ovechkin.
Add a four-week co-starring role on HBO's documentary-series 24/7 and a recent preview of the match-up on Dec. 23 and it should be clear that we would witness a show.
Here, the top 10 moments from the 2011 Winter Classic.
10. Second Intermission Charity Shootout: Franco Harris Vs. Jerome Bettis
During the second intermission, a charity shootout match was played between retired Pittsburgh Steelers Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis. The Bus dominated through the hockey portion, outshooting Harris 9-7.
However, there was a bonus round where the participants each had the opportunity to throw a football into the net for five bonus points. Harris made his throw but Bettis failed to make his, giving Harris the 12-9 win.
Who would have thought that Bettis would fare better in the hockey portion of the shootout than in his own sport's portion?
9. Pittsburgh Center Jordan Staal Saw His First Action Of The Season
Coming into the Winter Classic, Jordan Staal had not seen game action since May 12. He battled a string of bad luck: first a foot injury, which later became infected, and then a broken hand.
It was unsure whether Staal would be healed to play in the Winter Classic but fortunately Staal was finally able to make his way back into the Penguins' line-up in time for the big event.
He tallied two shots on net in his season debut.
8. Rival Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals Entered Side-By-Side
The two teams' entrances was a symbolic start to the game: the two teams entered side-by-side a sign of peace.
Of course, the peace did not last long into the game, but at least they had the ceremonial entrance to the game.
7. Fight Between Penguins' Mike Rupp and Capitals' John Erskine
Tempers always flare when these two teams face each other. It's been well-documented that these two teams do not care for each other.
It comes as no surprise then that a little over the halfway marker of the first period, that Mike Rupp of the Penguins and John Erskine of the Capitals chose to drop the gloves, following an on-ice disagreement.
It was an alright scrap, Rupp had a slight size advantage, but each player is arguably an enforcer for their respective teams. The outcome was a draw, after both players seemed to tire.
If the fight had seemed to affect the final outcome of the game, perhaps encouraging some offense like some fights are prone to, this would rank higher, but both sides' goaltending remained solid and no goals would be scored until the next period.
6. Scrums In The Last Seconds of The Third Period
Not every emotional outbursts resulted in a fight. There were many scrums and players getting tangled up during the game- Sidney Crosby and Mike Green early in the game being one of them.
But it was not until the very end of the final period- 00.6 seconds left to be exact- that the tempers converged in a couple scrums after the whistle.
The biggest involved Chris Kunitz getting tangled up with Alex Ovechkin. This looked like it would end in a fight but the players were separated quickly.
It is very typical of the two teams to end on such a note. They would probably fight more if the games were not so close...too close to take dumb penalties like fighting majors.
These ending scrums, however, will just further increase the intensity of future games between these two rivals.
5. Inclement Weather and Other Not Ideal Conditions In Pittsburgh
Each year, when the NHL plans their annual Winter Classic events, the conditions outdoors are always called into question.
Of course, there is never enough foresight to predict how well the conditions will be, so year after year the league and fans just have to hope for the best.
For a couple weeks prior to the game, meteorologists have been speculating about rain on Jan. 1 in Pittsburgh. As the date got closer, a warm front was predicted. Rain and a warm front are less than ideal conditions for a hockey game being held on a rink outdoors.
The game ended up being pushed from a 1 p.m. puck drop to an 8 p.m. puck drop, in the hopes that the later start time would circumvent the rain and the dark would help keep the ice from melting too badly.
There was lots of speculation on which team would fare better in poor conditions, but both teams appeared able to persevere, not letting it become an issue.
Obviously, the weather had some effect on the game, but both teams still managed to put on quite a primetime show in the poor weather.
4. Disallowed Goals For Pittsburgh and Washington
There were matching disallowed goals in this game. The first probably had the most affect on the outcome of the game.
Pittsburgh thought they had tied the game 2-2 in the second period, but it was waved off because it was determined that Mike Rupp had impeded Semyon Varlamov's ability to block the shot. That would-have-been-tying goal might have caused the game to end differently.
The second disallowed goal came in the third period. Alex Ovechkin and Marc-Andre Fleury crossed paths behind Pittsburgh's net, with Ovechkin appearing to push Fleury away before beating Fleury back to the net to score a goal.
Ovechkin's goal was waved off for the contact between Ovechkin and Fleury, but the Capitals still had a 3-1 lead that the Penguins could not come back from.
3. Mike Knuble's Game-Tying Goal In the Second Period
At 6:54 mark in the second period, Washington defenseman Mike Green was on his stomach in front of a sprawling Marc-Andre Fleury. The puck seemed to be buried under Green.
Washington forward Mike Knuble found the puck and pushed it into the net under Fleury for the tying goal and leading the Capitals' offensive momentum.
2. Evgeni Malkin Gets First Goal Of The 2011 Winter Classic
Following solid performances by both goaltenders in the first period, Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin needed just 2:13 into the second period to give his team some offensive momentum.
Malkin generated a breakaway chance that would have been difficult for any goaltender to stop. Sadly, it would be the only goal on the scoring sheet for the Penguins.
1. Eric Fehr's Two-Goal Performance Leading The Capitals to Victory
Eric Fehr had a rough end to 2010. He missed a Dec. 21 game vs. the New Jersey Devils because of a death in his family.
His 2011 is starting off a little bit better, with a two-goal performance that lead his team to a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Washington Capitals' Winter Classic debut.
Fehr's first goal came in the second period, to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead going into the third. Fleury had just skated around behind the net when Fehr found the wide open net and placed the puck into it.
His second goal came as insurance for the Capitals about halfway into the third period. Fehr avoided two Pittsburgh defenders chasing him into their zone and beat Fleury for his second of the night.
With his two goals and a +2 performance on the night, Fehr definitely deserves the No. 1 spot for the 2011 Winter Classic.
We'll have to wait another year for another Winter Classic but maybe more importantly we'll only have to wait until Feb. 6 for the next installment of the Capitals-Penguins rivalry.