PHT’s top 14 of ’14: Winter Classic at the Big House

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Neither frigid temperatures nor traffic could stop 105,491 from packing the Big House in Ann Arbor on New Year’s Day.

The sixth edition of the Winter Classic saw an Original Six matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, with Leafs center Tyler Bozak scoring the shootout winner in the third round to give Toronto a 3-2 victory.

The game drew record numbers on television, prompting NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to call it “everything we hoped for”.

There were no goals in the first period as the two clubs adjusted to the obstacle of heavy snowfall during the game, which turned the Big House into a virtual snow globe.

Daniel Alfredsson opened the scoring with his 11th of the season at 13:14 of the second period. Then, with less than a minute remaining in the middle frame, James van Riemsdyk tied it 1-1 on his 15th of the season.

Bozak gave Toronto its first lead of the afternoon at 4:41 of the third, but Justin Abdelkader tied it 2-2 with just over five minutes remaining to force overtime, which paved the way for Bozak’s shootout winner.

Jonathan Bernier made 41 saves in the win while Jimmy Howard, who stopped 24 Leafs shots, was saddled with the loss.

The shootout was only part of the day’s drama, however. Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul caught Red Wings’ Patrick Eaves with a cross check to the face in the first period of the game, and was penalized for cross checking. Two days later, Lupul, who had been suspended previously, was fined $10,000 for the hit.

Leafs defenseman John-Michael Liles took the pre-game skate at the Big House, but was a healthy scratch. Soon after puck drop it was learned Liles had been dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Tim Gleason.

After the snow, the game and all the theatrics, hockey fans were treated to more drama as the U.S. unveiled its Olympic roster and all the scuttlebutt that went along with it.

Best Winter Classic ever? Hard to say no.