It was, above all, an everyman’s Winter Classic in 2011. A game touted as Sid vs. Ovie was instead dominated by a player who had yet to truly find his offensive stride this year. Eric Fehr had only 13 points on the season coming into tonight’s game. But in the torrential downpour at Heinz Field, Fehr found the spotlight, scoring 2 of the Capitals’ 3 goals.
The team itself showed up big time, in primetime, under the lights and in the rain. Boudreau said following the win that it was more than “just a game” – there was a desire to show people who were completely foreign to the sport how exciting it can be.
Even for the lifetime Caps fan, however, the game delivered excitement. A John Erskine fight, a Capitals comeback goal in the second period from Mike Knuble after the Pens’ Evgeni Malkin scored on a breakaway, holding Sidney Crosby pointless, and unanticipated superpower from Eric Fehr should all make Capitals fans feel off to a good start in 2011.
Memorable episodes often seem pass by at the speed of light, and the Capitals’ Mathieu Perreault – who, since he’s split time between the Capitals and their AHL affiliate’s rosters this season, had to live with the uncertainty for several months of whether he would be in the Caps’ locker room for the Winter Classic — agreed that this game went by at a faster pace than most.
“Yeah, I think it went by pretty quick,” Perreault said, but added, “I think we enjoyed, really enjoyed our time.”
Perreault also acknowledged the side effects of the rain that came down frequently throughout the game.
“You got to keep things really simple,” Perreault said of playing on that type of ice surface. “You can’t try too much ‘cause [the] puck won’t follow and just bounce everywhere.”
But, in the end, “It bothers me more when I was on the bench than on the ice,” Perreault said.
“You had to sit on the edge of the bench,” Knuble chuckled, explaining that sitting at the back guaranteed a wet seat. He added that the ice actually felt different — indicating for the better — after the second period.
Perreault, still bearing the scars of a broken nose from last Sunday’s game in Carolina, also spent a brief moment down on the ice after an encounter with one of the Penguins’ players left him helmetless and caused a minor nose bleed.
“I think that guy know maybe I had a broken nose, and he’s trying to get my nose, and I was just trying to get out of the way,” said Perreault. In typical hockey-player fashion, however, he dismissed the injury.
“I’m alright,” he said.
If the Capitals showed up tonight, so did their fans. Alex Ovechkin’s postgame comments on the Caps crowd at Heinz Field may not quite be numerically accurate, but, on a road trip that saw its fair share of noticeably awkward demonstrations, the Capitals captain still found the bright side.
“You can hear when we score goals how many people was fans of Washington,” he said. “I can see a thousand people in one spot, a thousand people upstairs, it was really unbelievable. When it was the National Anthem, and they are screaming, like, it was unbelievable.
There’s only one downside to the Capitals’ victory this evening: in a sport known for its superstitions, it’s important to remember that each road team in the Winter Classic made it to the Stanley Cup finals that same year, only to lose.
Perreault, however, is looking at the bright side of the curse and perhaps breaking it.
“We don’t think about it – I mean, all the teams get in the finals, so it’s a good thing, so that means we’re going to get in the finals, maybe, we’ll be the first ones to win,” Perreault said.
One thing’s for sure: we can’t wait to see the next episode of HBO’s 24/7.