Crosby inspires Penguins to outdoor victory

Wed Jan 2, 2008 3:15pm EST
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By Steve Keating

ORCHARD PARK, New York (Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Penguins opened the New Year with a 2-1 shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday in the first outdoor NHL game played in the United States.

Snow fell gently on a capacity crowd of 71,217 at Ralph Wilson Stadium, surpassing the attendance of 57,167 when the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Montreal Canadiens in the only previous league game played outdoors in 2003.

The novelty factor aside, the big drawing card for most spectators was an opportunity to see the league's Most Valuable Player Sidney Crosby in action.

Crosby did not disappoint as he set up Colby Armstrong for Pittsburgh's opening goal before notching the shootout winner.

"This is hockey at it's best," Crosby told reporters. "It's unbelievable."

Having struggled to attract an audience in the U.S., staging the game dubbed the 'Winter Classic' on New Year's Day represented a risky move by the NHL especially as it went head-to-head with a day-long lineup of college football games.

But the gamble paid off when Crosby, the league's most marketable personality since Wayne Gretzky, shone for the television viewers in the U.S. and Canada.

DRAMATIC END   Continued...

<p>Pittsburgh Penguins' Sydney Crosby (R) celebrates, with team mates Jordan Staal (11) and Ryan Malone, (12) after scoring the game winning goal against the Buffalo Sabres in an overtime shootout during the NHL's Winter Classic outdoor game in Orchard Park, New York January 1, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>