With all the hype around this year’s Winter Classic, it was almost as if the result was secondary to the enormity of the event.
The final score — a 3-1 Capitals win behind two goals from winger Eric Fehr — may not be what many remember from the rainy night in Pittsburgh. For both the fans and the players, the memory from just being there is what rules.
“It was one of the best feelings in my life,” Ovechkin said. “When you see it’s sold out, it’s like I can’t imagine when football players play every game like this. It’s unbelievable.”
And with the crowd of 68,111 roaring, the atmosphere was a magical one at Heinz Field from start to finish. Not even a downpour of rain the third period could put a damper on what Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau called “an experience [he’ll] never forget.”
“When you come into this kind of atmosphere and you’re playing arguably the best team in the league and you win, it was more than just a game to everybody,” he said.
The game — and the win — was especially memorable for Fehr, who had goals in the final two periods. His second goal with just eight minutes remaining gave Washington a two-goal cushion, and they would hold on behind a strong defensive effort and big saves from goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
“The first one felt unbelievable,” Fehr said, beaming. “We had a good lead going into the third there. We just wanted to play defense, and fortunately I was able to get that second one.”
Fehr, like the rest of the Caps, was ecstatic to win a game that had so much hype, and even though they were in a rival’s city, the fans from Washington traveled well and a Caps chant was very audible after Fehr’s second goal.
“You can see, you can hear when we score goals how many people were fans of Washington,” Ovechkin said. “I can see a thousand people in one spot, a thousand people upstairs, it was really unbelievable.”
Added Fehr: “The first time we came out for the first period there the fans were loud and it was just everything you kind of dreamed of. It was a perfect night.”
Perfect, though, might be a bit of a stretch. With rain pushing the start time back to 8 p.m., the rink was full of puddles and wasn’t in the best condition, despite crews working tirelessly to fix it. In the third period, rain poured down hard, while it affected the ice and the game, there were no delays.
“The second period was a little bit of rain, and the third period was lots of rain,” Ovechkin said. “Weather changed all the time, and we handled it.”
But even with the rain pouring down, pucks bouncing off the ice, and puddles littering the rink, the Capitals held on to their two-goal lead to come away from Pittsburgh with two points, lots of memories, and another win they hope will springboard them to success in the new year.
“For us, it was a month-long buildup where it didn’t start out very good at all,” Boudreau said. “But this is like as close to the Stanley Cup as we’ve gotten.”