NHL Game Summary - Pittsburgh at Buffalo
(Tuesday, January 1st)
Final Score: Pittsburgh 2, Buffalo 1 (SO)
Orchard Park, NY (Sports Network) - Sidney Crosby scored on the final chance of the shootout to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in the first NHL game played outdoors in the United States.
Buffalo's Ales Kotalik scored in the first round of the shootout and the Penguins tied it in the second round when Kristopher Letang lifted a backhander home.
After Pittsburgh goaltender Ty Conklin stopped Maxim Afinogenov's backhander, it came down to Crosby and the NHL's brightest star delivered. He skated in on Ryan Miller, who went for a poke-check and missed. Crosby quickly slipped the puck through the five-hole to win it.
"I lost the puck," said Miller. "I was going for a tip check on him and he was trying to get around me. I thought he was going to stop."
The game, dubbed the "Winter Classic," was played before an NHL-record crowd of 71,217 at Ralph Wilson Stadium -- home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills. Snow fell throughout much of the contest and the temperature at game time was about 30 degrees, dropping to the high 20s late in the third period and in overtime.
"Some offensive chances got kabashed with all the snow," said Conklin. "It had the potential to be a higher scoring game, certainly."
The league last held an outdoor game on November 22, 2003 when Montreal played in Edmonton before a then-NHL-record crowd of 57,167.
Conklin was a member of the Oilers for the game in 2003, while Miller had previous outdoor experience on a grand scale when he played for Michigan State in a matchup with arch-rival Michigan before 74,544 fans at Spartan Stadium.
The teams also sported throwback jerseys. The Penguins wore light blue sweaters from their first few years of the late 1960s, while the Sabres trotted out their classic white with the logo featuring a charging buffalo over a pair of swords.
Crosby notched an assist on Colby Armstrong's first-period goal for the Penguins, who have won four in a row and also beat the Sabres at home on Saturday night. Conklin finished with 36 saves.
"The whole big picture, sit back and look at it," said Armstrong. "Packed stadium, snow falling, Crosby putting it in to win with his little celebration. I thought it was great for the game and we got two points, too, so that's a big thing."
Brian Campbell scored the lone goal for Buffalo, which has lost four straight on the heels of a six-game winning streak. Miller stopped 24 shots in defeat.
"We're in a little bit of a funk here with scoring goals," said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. "We've been playing some decent hockey. We have a tough January with a tough road schedule so it's important that we get back on track and start winning some games. I thought it was good for the game. I think it brings it back to the roots. For most players this is where it all started. It might not be the best hockey game because of the conditions but the atmosphere was incredible."
Snow fell throughout much of the first period and the elements helped the Penguins open the scoring just 21 seconds into the contest.
The Sabres turned the puck over at center ice and Crosby raced into the Buffalo zone along the left wing. He cut toward the net through the circle and had the puck poked off his stick, but it went directly to Armstrong and he fired it into the back of the net for his sixth goal of the season.
Each team had a great scoring chance in the closing minutes of the first. Ryan Malone blasted a shot off the iron on a 3-on-2 break, and the Sabres went the other way and nearly scored, but Derek Roy's point-blank chance from the slot rang off the crossbar.
The snow stopped late in the first, but sleet began to fall when the teams came out for the second period and Buffalo tied it just 1:25 into the middle stanza.
Tim Connolly skated down the left boards and fired a cross-ice pass to the right circle for Campbell, who snapped a shot past Conklin for his fourth goal.
The Penguins failed to mount much of an attack in the second period, tallying a mere two shots. Conklin, though, kept it even by turning aside 13 shots in the frame.
Because of the elements, the third period was stopped midway through to give each team an equal amount of time attacking each end.
The Sabres had a couple of good chances in the late stages of regulation, as Conklin stopped a wraparound attempt by Thomas Vanek, who moments later was unable to get his stick on a rebound after a shot by Roy.
Armstrong took a hooking penalty at the conclusion of regulation and the Sabres were unable to capitalize on the power play in the extra period, despite throwing five shots at Conklin. Buffalo had all seven shots in the five-minute stanza.
The teams also switched ends midway through the overtime period...The Pens improved to 6-1 in shootouts this year, while the Sabres fell to 1-2.
01/01 20:14:24 ET