NHL Game Summary - Washington at Pittsburgh
(Saturday, January 1st)
Final Score: Washington 3, Pittsburgh 1
Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Eric Fehr notched the go-ahead and insurance goals as the Washington Capitals downed the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-1, in a weather-delayed and rain-slicked 2011 Winter Classic from Heinz Field.
Originally scheduled for its traditional start time after 1 p.m. (et), the game was pushed back on Friday to an 8 p.m. faceoff after the NHL, both competing franchises, the networks which agreed to broadcast the game (NBC, CBC, RDS), the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NHL Players Association consulted about a forecast of rain for the region until Saturday evening.
While the rain was virtually absent at the outset, the precipitation grew steadier throughout the game and made the ice slushy in spots.
"I think both teams were just so excited, and it was pretty fun," said Washington star forward Alex Ovechkin. "The first period was good weather. The second period was a little bit of rain, and third period was lots of rain. So it was kind of - weather changed all the time and we handled it, and it was a pretty good game."
Mike Knuble netted the other score for the Capitals, who battled through the conditions to post their fifth win in their last six games.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 32-of-33 shots to earn his seventh win of the season.
Evgeni Malkin provided the lone offense for the Penguins, who have dropped three of four and remained tied with idle Detroit for the top spot in the NHL with 53 points.
Marc-Andre Fleury took the loss, responsible for all three goals on 32 shots.
Jordan Staal made his season debut after missing Pittsburgh's first 39 games while recovering from a foot infection and broken hand. He finished with two shots in nearly 15 minutes of ice time.
"Coming down the tunnel, it's a pretty amazing feeling," said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby. "And playing hockey in front of that many people, it's something that probably none of us ever dreamed of doing. Would have been nice to be on the other side of things, but it's still a privilege to be part of that."
Washington moved ahead by a 2-1 count when Fleury's bad clear behind his net went straight to Marcus Johansson, who fed Fehr for a one-timer from the right circle at 14:45 of the second period.
A potential tying goal with just over a minute left in the second was wiped out when Penguins forward Michael Rupp tumbled into Varlamov and was whistled for incidental contact.
Knuble was sent off for shooting a rolling puck over the glass at the 7:28 mark of the third, and despite heavy Pittsburgh pressure, the game remained in a one-goal margin for the visitors.
Fehr then made it a 3-1 game for the Capitals with 8:01 left in regulation, when John Erskine moved the puck ahead to Jason Chimera, who hit Fehr in flight up the middle and the young grinder scored with a high wrister.
"What can I say? I thought he played a real good game," said Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau about Fehr. "And he finally got rewarded by doing the things that we know he's capable of doing. And then he gets two goals. And that's big, obviously."
Fleury was summoned to the bench with 1:15 remaining, but the Capitals kept any quality chances away from their net.
Both clubs came out flying in the first period, but the best chance for either side came when Pittsburgh's Mark Letestu rang a wrister off the post with less than six minutes to play in the period, and the Pens finished scoreless on 16 shots after 20 minutes.
The Capitals threw 12 shots on Fleury but he was equal to the task on each one.
Ovechkin was foiled on a partial break in the first minute of the second period, then Fleury gloved down a sizzling Ovechkin drive and directed the puck to Kris Letang's lead pass for Malkin, who sailed in on a breakaway and scored between Varlamov's pads at 2:13.
The Capitals equalized on a power play with 6:54 played as Knuble managed to poke the puck through a pile of bodies in the crease.
The NHL's outdoor slate is not finished, as the Flames host the Montreal Canadiens at Calgary's McMahon Stadium on February 20 in the Heritage Classic, the first time the league has hosted two open-air games in one season...Pittsburgh sports icons Mario Lemieux, Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis dropped ceremonial pucks at center ice...Erskine and Rupp engaged in a fight just after the midway point of the first period after an earlier try by two potential combatants was broken up by officials...Crosby was held scoreless for the second straight game...Ovechkin also went scoreless and was on the ice during the home team's only goal.
01/02 00:20:24 ET