In a Winter Classic full of white stuff, the Maple Leafs showed the largest crowd in hockey history they have the right stuff. The Leafs silenced 50% of the Big House and gave those from Leaf Nation who braved the drive and elements a thrilling 3-2 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Tyler Bozak’s winner and Jonathan Bernier’s net heroics on Wednesday. A world record crowd of 105,491 saw a tuque-topped Bernier make 41 saves and two of three in the shootout. The Leafs had regulation goals from James van Riemsdyk and Bozak and survived a flurry — pardon the pun — by the Wings in the dying seconds of overtime. After snow had fallen since the early morning hours, forcing a SWAT team of shovellers to be on high alert, the flakes abated in the second period before returning in force in the third. A worldwide audience no doubt loved the snow-globe setting, but players and fans at the University of Michigan’s legendary football field needed all manner of ways to stay warm. Temperatures fluctuated in the Fahrenheit teens, but to be part of such an event superceded the conditions. More than 40,000 of the pricey tickets were sold in southern Ontario and a representative of the Guinness Book Of World Records was on hand to verify the new mark. But the big prize for coach Randy Carlyle was the two points, temporarily breaking a three-way tie for fifth in the conference with Detroit and Washington and providing Toronto with points in six straight games. To Carlyle’s relief, Toronto can now get back a semblance of normal NHL life, though might have to do it without Joffrey Lupul for Saturday’s home game against the New York Rangers. His crosscheck to the head and shoulders of a downed Patrick Eaves will get a look from the NHL and he’s already been on Brendan Shanahan’s carpet this season. The pre-game was big on pomp, though the crowd needed only to see the two famous teams come strutting out of the famed tunnel to get off their freezing fannies and start the roar. It was hard for both to move the puck in the snowy build-up, while being tentative with unfamiliar bounces off the boards and other nuances. Despite two Leafs penalties — Lupul’s minor that ended Eaves’ afternoon and a Dion Phaneuf hold — the Wings could not penetrate Bernier in the first. Detroit led 13-5 in shots, the visible ones anyway, with few quality chances. That changed in early in the second period when Nazem Kadri got the puck behind the Wings defence and tried to stretch around Jimmy Howard, but was denied by his right pad. Right at the halfway mark of the game, with the flurries blowing right in his face, Bernier lost a high puck out of his glove and Daniel Cleary nearly stuffed it in from a tight angle. “The snow was right in my face, but today was a lot of fun,” Bernier said as he further solidified his hold on the Leafs’ No. 1 job. Detroit finally broke through on a bad change by the Leafs. With Jake Gardiner left to defend a 2-on-1, Henrik Zetterberg slid a pass to the Leafs’ great nemesis, Daniel Alfredsson. The puck glanced off his trailing skate as Lupul tried to get back. The Wings ramped up the pressure with Jay McClement in the box, as Cleary missed another odd-man break. Van Riemsdyk, who was named to the U.S. Olympic team right after the game with Phil Kessel, just missed a puck that landed at his feet on a delayed Jakub Kindl penalty and was foiled once more with Kindl in the box before finally beating Howard high.
Maple Leafs beat Red Wings in shootout at chilly, snowy Winter Classic
Toronto Sun | Jan 1