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Leafs take Winter Classic in snowy Ann Arbor

3-2 shootout win over Red Wings

If the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings played this way on a Wednesday night in January at Air Canada Centre or Joe Louis Arena, it'd be considered a mediocre NHL game.

But this was the Winter Classic, with snow falling and the wind blowing through Michigan Stadium in the middle of a frigid afternoon. The conditions made for some sloppy play at times, but the spectacle of the event overshadowed that.

Tyler Bozak finished off the on-ice drama by scoring the shootout winner for the Leafs, who moved ahead of the Red Wings in the Eastern Conference wild-card standings with a 3-2 victory in front of a frozen crowd of 105,491.

Joffrey Lupul also scored in the shootout for Toronto, while Pavel Datsyuk scored for Detroit.

Bozak and James van Riemsdyk scored in regulation for the Leafs, while Daniel Alfredsson and Justin Abdelkader had the Red Wings' goals.

Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier made 41 saves in regulation and overtime for the victory, his third straight. Detroit's Jimmy Howard had 24 saves in a losing effort.

Van Riemsdyk, playing in his third Winter Classic after losing twice with the Philadelphia Flyers, seemed to have some jump from the get-go. But his Leafs teammates and the Red Wings struggled to put together a fundamentally sound game early on as snow piled up on the ice.

Conditions weren't ideal, something players knew was possible given that five to 10 centimetres of snow were forecasted to fall in Ann Arbor over a number of hours. The puck bounced throughout the game, and crisp passes were more the exception than the norm.

But Bernier and Howard had their own disadvantages with visibility, and eventually the skaters took advantage of that and sent at least part of the crowd into a frenzy.

That first happened 13:14 into the second period when Alfredsson took a pass from Henrik Zetterberg on a two-on-one and redirected the puck in with the inside of his right skate. It was reviewed and determined that Alfredsson did not use a distinct kicking motion, so it was a good goal.

Alfredsson's 11th goal of the season, was also his 34th in 82 career games against the Leafs. The previous 33, along with 38 of 39 assists versus Toronto, came when he was captain of the Ottawa Senators.

According to Elias Sports, the 34 goals are the most any active player has scored against the Leafs.

Van Riemsdyk, who spent two years in Ann Arbor with the U.S. National Team Development Program, ensured Alfredsson's goal wouldn't stand up as the Winter Classic-winner. At 19:23 of the second, he batted the puck out of the air on a rebound to wake up the Leafs fans, who made up at least half the crowd if not more.

Bozak gave Toronto the lead 4:41 into the third when he deflected captain Dion Phaneuf's point shot. It was reviewed for a high stick and originally credited to Phaneuf, but ultimately Bozak was awarded his fifth of the season.

Abdelkader, who went to Michigan State in East Lansing, tied it at 14:28 of the third.

This was the third Winter Classic in six to go to overtime and second to go to a shootout. The visiting team won for the fifth time.

It was -11 C when the puck dropped at 1:31 p.m, and the wind was blowing at around 16 kilometres per hour in the Red Wings' faces. The temperature hovered around there throughout and snow fell steadily, producing the same kind of snow-globe effect that made the 2008 Winter Classic in Buffalo so memorable.

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  1. john posted on 01/02/2014 10:48 AM
    oh the leafs won big deal .

    unless thay win the cup i still think the leafs suck .
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