In a snow-filled game in Buffalo the goalies were expected to have their work cut out for them, but due to past experience they both shined.
The 2008 Winter Classic took place in front of 71,217 fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium today, where the host Sabres fell 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins after a shootout in a game that was as predictable as, well, the weather.
The outdoor game forced both teams to adapt to the weather conditions that seemed to change with the period. Sabres' goalie Ryan Miller Penguins' goalie Ty Conklin seemed to be the two most comfortable players, having both played outdoor in the Cold War, and the Heritage Classic respectively.
Things started out with a bang when Colby Armstrong sent home a rebound off a Sidney Crosby rush just 21 seconds in. Shortly after though, play was slowed drastically by the elements. Snow started to pile up on the ice forcing a dry scrape halfway through the first period and a hole in the ice took about 10 minutes to repair, which kept the pace of the first period from ever really reaching its full potential.
The second period saw the game speed up drastically after the snow fall became lighter and the Sabres seemed to find their comfort zone, playing the quick paced kind of game they normally do.
Brian Campbell sparked their turnaround early when he snapped home a wrist shot from the high slot over the shoulder of Conklin just 1:25 into the period. The Sabres dominated the rest of second frame outshooting the Penguins 14-2, but they were unable to capitalize any further due to the strong play of Conklin.
Keeping with the unpredictable nature of Buffalo weather, the third period saw the wind and snowfall pick up again and the Penguins improved on their efforts from the second.
Another few ice repairs and flooding at the midpoint slowed down the period much like the first, but the players didn’t seem to mind as the Penguins, particularly young guns Jordan Staal, Evgeni Malkin, and Crosby, created lots of chances in the Sabres' end. Miller was strong in nets though and shut the door on the Penguins offense, forcing the game into overtime.
The Penguins started overtime down a man after Armstrong took a hooking penalty as time expired, but Conklin turned aside all seven shots he faced in the extra frame to force a shootout that ended the Winter Classic in the most fitting of ways.
Ales Kotalik opened the scoring for the Sabres, but Kris Letang countered and the stage was set for Crosby to shoot. He pushed the puck through the snow, and then went five-hole on Miller with the game winner.