Instant Classic for Fehr, Caps

By Jim Iovino
|  Sunday, Jan 2, 2011  |  Updated 12:46 AM EDT
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Caps Practice at Heinz Field

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PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 01: Eric Fehr #16 of the Washington Capitals celebrates scoring in third period as Paul Martin #7 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on during the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic at Heinz Field on January 1, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Washington won 3-1. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

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All of the hype and hoopla. The TV series. The circus-like atmosphere and constant attention.

Just a few weeks ago the Capitals weren't sure they wanted to play along with the NHL's media machine anymore.

But now, after turning the ship around, ending a horrific losing streak and beating their hated rivals in the biggest game of the year -- outdoors -- the Caps don't want the party to end.

"It was a tough start to the HBO series," Eric Fehr said. "We were in a bit of a losing streak. But I think it finished well for us. We're pretty happy with it."

Fehr definitely can be happy with how things will end in HBO's "24/7" series. He scored the final two goals of the game to give his team a 3-1 win over the Penguins at Heinz Field in the much-hyped Winter Classic.

In a game that was made out to be a marquee matchup between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, the spotlight from the large lights at the top of Heinz Field shined brightest on Fehr.

"It felt unbelievable," Fehr said. "The fans were loud. It was everything you could have dreamed of. It was a perfect night, nice and dark outside with the lights. It was great."

If you had to bet money on who would be the No. 1 star of the game, few people would feel comfortable choosing Fehr -- a player who has been in and out of the lineup recently as his coaches tried to light a spark under him and get him to play better.

"He finally got rewarded by doing the things we know he's capable of doing," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "That's big."

And even though Ovechkin didn't score -- and he even embarrassed himself a bit with a trip over the blue line while attempting a slap shot in the first period -- he apparently had a blast nonetheless. A win will do that to you.

"It's probably the best moment of my life," Ovechkin said. "It's so loud. I can't imagine what the football players play every game like this. It's unbelievable. It's kind of a thing that you want to do all the time now. ... A million people watching you."

Even the rain couldn't dampen the spirits of the Caps on this night.

"The way we played tonight we felt we could have played all night," said Mike Knuble, who scored the Caps' first goal of the game on the power play. "Everybody was in it tonight. Everybody was on. Everybody was into the game. Everybody gave a crap tonight." 

That level of intensity could be seen on the very first shift, as Ovechkin nearly put Pens' defenseman Zbynek Michalek through the glass behind the Pittsburgh net.

Boudreau agreed with Knuble's "Everybody gave a crap" line. And if anyone tries to tell you different, well, they're just playing you the fool.

Boudreau went so far as to say this was like the Caps' version of winning the Stanley Cup -- a statement no one should take lightly. It's true -- these Caps have won plenty of individual awards the past couple of years. But when it comes to winning very important games as a team, well, that has eluded them more times than they'd care to remember.

Until now.

"This is like as close to the Stanley Cup as we've gotten," Boudreau said. "We're not denying that it was more than just two points. It was a fabulous game. And we came in wanting to win this thing."

So where do the Caps go from here? There will be no more HBO crew following them around and documenting their every move. During that losing streak, many of the players would have given up their salaries just to make the cameras disappear.

But now, with the team feeling good and winning games and displaying some swagger, well ... when is the sequel?

"We kind of like them now," Boudreau said. "We didn't like them much at the beginning of the month, but everything worked out."

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