Friday, January 1, 2010

NHL Recap 1-1-10: B's win Classic; Sabres do it again

Bruins mount comeback to take Classic
The NHL's third Winter Classic went off without a hitch to start the new year. An earlier forecast brought the potential for rain, which likely wouldn't have made things too fun for the game. The rain stayed away, as did the snow, which was probably unfortunate.

Because really, it wasn't too fun a game. The ending, with German Olympian Marco Sturm deflecting Patrice Bergeron's pass 1:57 into overtime to give Boston a 2-1 win over Philadelphia, helped make up for the lackluster first 50 minutes or so. The Bruins are the first home team to win a Winter Classic.

Sturm's goal followed Mark Recchi's deflection on the power play with 2:18 left in regulation to get the Bruins on the scoreboard and canceled out Danny Syvret's first career goal for the Flyers. That goal shouldn't have happened, but Tim Thomas, who finished with 24 saves, was busy making sure Scott Hartnell's jersey fit properly and wasn't paying attention when Syvret's shot came through.

I say it was unfortunate it didn't snow, because that would've added something to the game that was sorely lacking: entertainment. Boston came through late in the third period as it rallied for the tie and the win, but outdoors doesn't seem to be very good for hockey. I'd have to watch it again, but I don't think I was overly entertained with the Buffalo-Pittsburgh game two years ago either.

The Detroit-Chicago game proved to be a different story, so maybe it's just a coincidence. Hard to call anything a trend after just two out of three tries. We'll see how next year's game goes.

What made the Penguins win over the Sabres memorable were the following things: 1) Over 70,000 people in attendance; 2) The "newness" of the event, being the first Winter Classic (apologies to the Heritage Classic from 2003); 3) The snow during the game; 4) The shootout ending with Sidney Crosby netting the deciding goal.

None of those things were in effect for Philadelphia-Boston, and if given a chance for a do-over, Gary Bettman would've picked different teams for the event. It didn't help that neither of these teams is having a very prolific offensive season anyway. The Sturm OT winner salvaged things a little, as did the Team USA roster announcement, especially seeing as how it was capped off with winning goalie Thomas. They did have the first fight in the WC, with Daniel Carcillo and Shawn Thornton going at it, but that was it.

The best highlight from the game? Claude Julien's hat.

Regardless, it's still a fun event that is one of the few things the NHL gets right. My suggestion for next year's game is one that's been lobbied about before, Washington vs. the Rangers somewhere in New York.

Sabres do it again
Lindy Ruff doesn't want his Buffalo team making a habit of this, but for the second straight game, the Sabres overcame a 3-0 deficit to earn a 4-3 win, this time getting the winner from Derek Roy in overtime off a fluke bounce to defeat Atlanta.

Roy missed two games with an eye injury and returned against the Thrashers. He was the beneficiary of Tyler Myers' dump-in attempt, as it hit a partition and bounced off the glass into the slot. Johan Hedberg vacated his cage and Roy slapped a backhander into the empty goal.

Jochen Hecht had two goals and an assist for the Sabres, including scoring the tying goal 4:15 into the third period, less than two minutes after Tim Connolly's 10th of the season got Buffalo to within 3-2. It was the first time in franchise history Buffalo has overcome 3-0 deficits to win in two straight games.

The Sabres clamped down defensively after the second period, giving up only four shots in the third. Atlanta registered 27 in the first two periods. Ryan Miller finished with 32 saves.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Evander Kane and Bryan Little scored for the Thrashers.

Non-3 Stars selection
Connolly, who also had an assist. Buffalo's Adam Mair (two assists) was third, Kovalchuk was second and Hecht was first.

Stat of the night
38,112 - Attendance for the Winter Classic in Fenway Park.

Quote of the night
"For a while there, I didn't know if they were going to ever find out how these fans were going to react if we scored a goal."

Notable games
Saturday, Jan. 2 (12 games)
-Washington (24-10-6) at Los Angeles (23-15-3), 4 p.m. ET.

-New Jersey (28-10-1) at Minnesota (20-18-3), 8 p.m.

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