As the pregame parade began, as the precession of musket men, fife and drum corps, and the flags of every NHL team entered Fenway Park from the center field bleachers, the kids kept playing on the small rink created near the main show.
Five kids in Bruins jerseys, five kids in Flyers jerseys.
The Dropkick Murphys took the stage. Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke met at center ice. The fireworks shot off. The crowd roared. The NHL stars emerged from the dugouts.
The kids kept playing on the mini-rink. No loss of focus, no loss of fun. There was little that would keep the youngest of hockey players from skating as long as they could.
Working with the same resolve, responding to the pleas of 38,000 chilled but exuberant voices, the Bruins dug in and refused to leave the Winter Classic stage until the fun was over.
Trailing 1-0 late in the third period, Mark Recchi crashed the net during a power play to deflect in a Derek Morris shot, drawing Boston even. Then just 1:57 into overtime, Marco Sturm deflected in a Patrice Bergeron shot and the Bruins became the first home team to win the NHL’s New Year’s Day showcase, defeating the Flyers 2-1.
“That’s the thing I probably dreamed of this morning,” Sturm said. “It’s probably going to be my most memorable goal ever and I’m going to enjoy it.”
They may play 1,500 NHL games. They may lift the Stanley Cup or secure an Olympic gold medal for their country, but none of the Bruins or the black-and-gold-clad crowd taking over Fenway will forget this Classic comeback.
“Once we scored that first goal, the energy in Fenway was incredible,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “We all felt the chills on our back, we said, 'Let's get another one, let’s hear it again.' … It’s one of those things that you will experience once in your lifetime.”
Here are some, of the many, things to remember from the Classic comeback.
RECCHI TO THE RESCUE
With the weather cooperating (39.6 degrees at faceoff) and the events at Fenway falling nicely into place, the Bruins needed to do their part. They had unsuccessfully spent most of the second and third period trying to overcome a 1-0 deficit after Flyers defenseman Danny Syvret sent a wrist shot past Tim Thomas when the B's goalie was preoccupied cross-checking Philly forward Scott Hartnell.
Things did not look good. Flyers goalie Michael Leighton was closing in on a second straight shutout and the Bruins had already squandered a third-period power play when Kimmo Timonen was whistled for tripping with 3:52 to play.
Working with a man advantage, David Krejci sent a pass from the left circle through the Philadelphia defense to Morris in the right circle. Leighton moved his right pad out to stop the drive by Morris, but Recchi got his stick on the puck as it arrived in the crease, tipping it in and making Fenway delirious.
“I was in my spot and I was able to bank it in, it was pretty awesome,” said the 41-year-old Recchi, the oldest player in the league who was skating in his 1,530th NHL game. “It was a pretty cool experience today and it’s definitely something that you’ll never forget.”
Before netting the game-tying goal, Recchi already had played an effective game. He may have been the Bruins' best forward in the opening period, churning and whirling with the puck to create chances. In the third period, he spent considerable time during a shift skating without a glove.
Yeah, he was into the Classic, and netting a dramatic game tying goal was as good as it gets.
“It was incredible,” Recchi said. “Just knowing that, number one, it tied the game, and then the whole energy of the building, the whole thing being at Fenway, it kicked in when I got to the bench. [We were] just excited and got into a big pile and screaming at each other.”
RIGHT PLACE, WINNING TIME FOR STURM
After Recchi had tied the game and the crowd was bouncing, the Bruins had another power-play chance in the final minute that carried over into overtime.
Shortly after that power play ended, Bergeron won a battle with Mike Richards for the puck near the Flyers blue line. He skated to the left circle, cut back and whisked the puck toward the crease where Sturm tapped it in.
“I know where he goes, I knew he would be there for a tip,” said Bergeron, who has skated on a line with Sturm in the past. “I just passed the puck for his stick.”
Sturm was exactly where Bergeron thought he would be. He delivered the puck into the net before exuberantly leaping into the end boards.
“Obviously there’s bigger goals, like playoff goals and stuff like that and the Stanley Cup finals, but for right now, you know, that’s probably my biggest one,” said Sturm, who has five goals in his last six games.
THE DAY GOT BETTER FOR THOMAS
If the Bruins had not stormed back to take a remarkable win, Thomas was faced with looking at his gaffe on Syvret’s shot as the key play in the Classic. While focused on swatting Hartnell with his stick, Thomas had let Syvret’s shot elude him.
“Before the goal, I had made a save and [Hartnell] had basically run me over,” Thomas said. “I have no way to protect myself. That made me mad. When he came that close, I retaliated, but I just happened to be retaliating the same time someone else was shooting.”
Thomas had plenty of opportunities to redeem himself. He finished with 24 saves, none bigger than a stop on Daniel Briere during a 2-on-1 break with Richards in overtime shortly before Sturm’s game-winner.
“Obviously he had the time to be very patient, so I was doing everything I could to stay with him,” said Thomas, who was able to then watch the Boston attack finish off things. “When Marco scored the game-winner, that was one of the most incredible feelings that I can remember.”
Thomas was not done. Shortly after the game he was named to the USA Olympic team for the first time in his career.
“I feel like I have been waiting my whole life for this opportunity,” Thomas said. “To be named at your home crowd, at Fenway Park, I mean you add those things together, this is a story that will be told the rest of my life.”
STEALTH PLACES AND SWEET, SWEET CAROLINE
Drawing upon the karma of the Red Sox' success at Fenway, the Bruins began their rally shortly after Dennis Leary and Lenny Clarke took to the home plate stage and led the crowd through the traditional playing of Neil Diamond’s "Sweet Caroline."
“When they were singing, you had goose bumps, everyone was into it,” Morris said. “It was a game that was pretty special.”
While the players were not able to take in all of the events happening around Fenway during the game, Recchi was pretty quick to point to one special moment he took in.
“Man, that stealth was unbelievable,” said a laughing Recchi, in reference to the flyover by a stealth jet just before faceoff.
“Yeah, it was,” added Sturm.
From the opening moments before faceoff, until the explosion when Sturm netted the game-winner, there was plenty to smile about, enjoy and savor at the baseball field-turned-hockey rink on New Year’s Day.