2:19 PM: They’re through 20 minutes at the revamped Ralph Wilson Stadium for the second NHL Hockey Heritage Outdoor Classic between the host Sabres and Penguins.
The Pens are out in front on a Colby Armstrong tally on the game’s opening shift setup from who else but the game’s best player Sidney Crosby just 21 seconds in.
It looks like the lake effect snow is all but done as kids get their chance to play pond hockey between stanzas. How cool is that? Probably something they won’t ever forget.
The atmosphere is terrific with over 73,000 on hand to enjoy the festivities.
The biggest problem is that with snow comes delays. There were at least four different instances where they had to stop the game to repair chunks of ice. So maybe the first classic game in Edmonton five years ago against Montreal was better because it didn’t drag.
Still, it’s fun to watch as they prepare for period No.2.
SOG: Pit-11 Buf-9
Neither power play connected in four opportunities.
2:27 PM: The Sabres come out strong as Tim Connolly is denied by Ty Conklin. The center then comes back and sets up Brian Campbell’s one-timer which beats their former backup to tie the score.
So two goals in this one both very early in each stanza.
2:31 PM: The action now is end to end which is very fun to watch. The Sabres were coming on at the end of the first and now are starting to dictate the play as Conklin stops another shot from 40 feet out.
2:33 PM: The Sabres nearly connect on an odd-man rush but the puck is centered past a trailer. Brooks Orpik nails a Sabre from behind into the boards. Man. That had to sting. It could’ve been a boarding call IMO.
Conklin fights off another Campbell try. The Buffalo offensive blueliner is flying out there now and creating lots of chances for his teammates.
They go to the first break and it’s a bit of role reversal so far.
SOG: Pit-0 Buf-6
2:37 PM: Campbell again jumps into a rush and Connolly nearly sets him up. It seems like the ice is better now. Not as many turnovers. Maybe the players are adjusting. Also, the intermission gave them a chance to prepare it more.
Campbell hits Malone. This is a much better period to watch. Lots happening.
2:40 PM: The period is flying by unlike the first which saw many stoppages including a few delays. There haven’t been any penalties either which certainly has helped for any diehard puck fan to enjoy the action.
It’s been well played.
Still tied at one apiece as they hit a break with under 10:00 left.
2:43 PM: As they return with the zamboni out at the halfway point, Darren Pang is talking to Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien who wants his team to be physical. They certainly need to compete better because it’s been all Buffalo this stanza.
SOG: Pit-0 Buf-11
Only the netminding of Conklin has kept it tied as they showed a nice feature of Ryan Miller who took part in one of these when he led his college Michigan State to a 3-3 tie against rival Michigan back in 2001 with over 75,000 on hand at Spartan Stadium.
2:48 PM: Play continues and after a near connection from Buffalo, the Pens apply their first pressure of the period with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin teamed up. But still they aren’t able to get through a stingy Sabre D who hasn’t permitted a shot in the first 12:46 of the second as they touch up for icing.
2:50 PM: Thomas Vanek comes out off a faceoff but has a shot blocked. Then Conklin watches a Vanek one-timer from the high slot go off the crossbar.
2:52 PM: Now Connolly works a give and go with Ales Kotalik as his shot whistles wide. Still no shots for the Pens.
Fans aren’t pleased that there was no interference call on the Pens. It appears the refs have decided to let them play as opposed to the four minors called in period No.1. Vanek made a nice move pulling up but defenseman Toni Lydman’s shot was wide.
The Pens finally get a great opportunity but Sergei Gonchar’s shot in the slot misses.
3:35 to go
Chances are 13-10 Buffalo despite no SOG for the Pens this period which tells you how well they came out. But really, the Sabres should be ahead by now. Only a couple of posts and Conklin has kept this thing tied.
2:10 left in a period which is flying by
Another Pen shot sails high and wide. Can they get a shot before this period ends? They’re finally starting to get some attack time.
80 seconds remaining
With under 40 ticks left, the Pens generate a cycle but the Sabres intercept the puck and clear the zone. It appears they’re going to finish the period without a shot as another try narrowly misses.
Time winds down as the buzzer sounds with the game still knotted at one.
Believe it or not, they gave the Pens credit for two shots. One by rookie Tyler Kennedy and the other by I couldn’t figure out. It looked like neither even touched Miller. They were very generous. Might have something to do with the New Year.
Second Period scoring: 1:25 Brian Campbell 4 (Tim Connolly, Daniel Paille)
SOG: Pit-2 Buf-14
SOG thru 2: Pit-13 Buf-23
Power Plays: Pit-0-for-3 Buf-0-for-1
We’ll be continuing coverage over at my HB blog. I’ll have a wrap up later on this fun filled day.