Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Crosby and Pens take Classic in shootout

It came down to the game's most electricifying player Sidney Crosby against one of the better young netminders this game has to offer in Ryan Miller. Mono y mono.

With the game on his stick, the best the league has to offer already at just 20 years of age in season three wouldn't allow his team to lose in this well played Hockey Heritage outdoor Winter Classic.

Even with the snow in his eyes, as he calmly carried the puck skating towards Miller, the youngest NHL captain in league history faked left and then pulled to a stop and slipped the puck through the Buffalo goalie's five-hole to send the Penguins to a thrilling 2-1 shootout victory over the home Sabres before a record crowd of 71,217 screaming spectators at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"Growing up, I played a lot outside," the rating 2006-07 Hart winner explained to the Associated Press about the vintage pond hockey he took part in factoring in on his team's only goal in regulation before deciding it.
"When you see 70,000 people jammed into a stadium to watch
hockey, it's a good sign. The atmosphere and environment, I don't think you can
beat that."

Truer words couldn't be said about this extraordinary event- the second for the league since 2003 when the Canadiens defeated the Oilers in Edmonton. It was the first such NHL outdoor event in the United States.

"I like facing Sidney. I really want to stop him, obviously," the losing netminder said after keeping his team afloat with a strong third in stopping all 12 Pens' shots to earn his team a point. "I thought I made a good play to stay with him. I didn't think he made quite the play he wanted, but it worked out for him."

Truthfully, there were no losers on this special day in upstate New York.

"I'd love to do it again. I thought it was awesome," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff pointed out. "It was good for the game. It may not be the best hockey game because of the situation, because of the weather, because of the snow, but the atmosphere was incredible.

"The hell with the cynics."

Even league commish Gary Bettman came to the same conclusion despite not your ideal conditions. But it sure was fun to watch adding an extra element which fans could appreciate.

"Based on the response, on our ability to execute, and the inquiries we're getting from other clubs for similar activities, this obviously is something we're going to look at again," a pleased Bettman said afterwards.

For former Sabre backup Ty Conklin, it was fitting that he was the winning netminder since the journeyman also took part in the first one when his Oilers fell to the Habs 4-3 before 57,167 on Nov.22, 2003.

The 31 year-old from Anchorage Alaska was very strong in making 36 saves including turning aside 13 of 14 in a busy second to keep the Pens afloat.

In two straight starts against his former team, Conklin allowed only one goal to lead Pittsburgh to a home-and-home sweep. Not too shabby. Plus his glove save on Maxim Afinogenov's backhand deke in Round Three of the shootout was awesome giving the stage to Sid the Kid to work his magic.

You have to give kudos to all the hard work which was done in preparing the facility, especially keeping the ice playable through wintry conditions.

Here are our three stars:

3rd Star-Brian Campbell (goal, 3 SOG in 24:50 TOI)
2nd Star-Ty Conklin (36 saves)
1st Star-Sidney Crosby (assist and SO winner)

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