ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A lot of winter. Little classic hockey.
Light snow swirled down in the Big House on Wednesday, making it tough to push the puck through piles of the white stuff on a sheet of ice where football is usually played.
Teeth-chattering temperatures and a brisk wind were factors, too, that made the NHL’s Winter Classic much more of an event than a game.
Tyler Bozak scored the winning shootout goal and Jonathan Bernier made two saves in the heart-pounding final moments, lifting Toronto to a 3-2 victory over Detroit in front of 105,591 fans – the largest crowd to watch a hockey game.
“I was just lucky to get a stick on it and keep it low enough,” Bozak acknowledged.
The Red Wings were not as fortunate in the closely contested spectacle that was altered in a lot of ways because of the conditions.
Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg appeared to have a good chance in overtime with the puck in the Maple Leafs’ end and defenseman Cody Franson on his left side. The horn, however, sounded to stop play at the 2:30 mark of the extra period so that both teams played into a 10-plus mph wind for an equal amount of time.
“I think I would have had a clear breakaway,” Zetterberg said.
The game also was halted midway through the third period so the teams could switch sides. In the shootout, skaters for both teams attempted shots with the wind in their face toward the same net – or end zone.
After a slew of skaters with shovels cleared the ice following overtime, Pavel Datsyuk scored Detroit’s only goal in the shootout and teammate Tomas Tatar was foiled on his team’s third and final attempt because he couldn’t control the puck on the snow-covered surface and didn’t even get off a shot.
“The conditions made it so some of the skill in the game was eliminated,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
Bernier, with a knit hat over his helmet, made 41 saves – the most in an outdoor regular-season game.
The crowd surpassed the 104,173 who saw Michigan and Michigan State skate in the same football stadium known as the Big House in 2010.
The game-time temperature was 13 degrees with a wind chill of zero and steady snow that didn’t stop on a windy afternoon.
At the previous five Winter Classics, the average temperature was 39 degrees and the average attendance was 53,045.
Joffrey Lupul, who might face discipline from the NHL for a cross-check that knocked Patrick Eaves out of the game in the first period, scored the first of two goals for the Maple Leafs in the shootout.
Toronto moved a point ahead of Detroit in the Atlantic Division toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture with about half of the regular season remaining.