Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad both scored goals to help the Chicago Blackhawks erase an early 2-0 deficit, but a Troy Brouwer power play goal with 13 seconds remaining gave the Washington Capitals a 3-2 victory in the Winter Classic at Nationals Park.
Eric Fehr and Alex Ovechkin both scored goals for the Capitals in the first period, but it was Brouwer that came up big against his former team to give Washington a home ice victory.
The game got off to an interesting start for two teams that pride themselves on their offensive prowess, with each side trying to seize an early physical edge. Ultimately officials stepped in to lend some calm to the proceedings, sending Daniel Carcillo and Tom Wilson to the penalty box.
A few minutes later, a familiar face scored the first goal of the game. Fehr, who scored twice for the Capitals when they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2011 Winter Classic, got in alone on a breakaway after a bouncing puck eluded Brent Seabrook at the blue line, and he deked around Corey Crawford with ease to make it 1-0 Capitals.
Just a few minutes later, the Capitals struck again. On a bouncing puck that Michal Rozsival failed to clear from the front of the net, Ovechkin grabbed the loose puck and wristed home a shot past Crawford, making it 2-0 and causing a raucous celebration at Nationals Park.
The Capitals ended up giving the Blackhawks a chance to climb back into the game when Nicklas Backstrom headed to the box, and Chicago immediately capitalized on the chance. After Jonathan Toews won the face-off, Duncan Keith chipped a pass over to Sharp at the point. The winger slid toward the boards and ripped a shot through traffic that eluded Braden Holtby and made it a 2-1 game.
The two teams exchanged penalties late in the period as Bryan Bickell was whistled for a high stick and Brouwer was called for boarding, but neither side could score as the Capitals maintained their lead after 20 eventful minutes.
As the second period got underway, Ovechkin started to single-handedly push the tempo for his team. Early on he stole an errant pass from Keith at the blue line, and even after being denied by Crawford the Capitals' captain got off a second shot. It rang loudly off the post and stayed out, and a few moments later Ovechkin hit the net frame again as a wrist shot ricocheted off the crossbar.
Those missed opportunities ended up costing Washington a short time later, as the Hawks tied things up. Toews broke into the zone and in between two Capitals defenders, and he feathered a pass across the ice to Saad. The winger made sure not to miss, deflecting a one-timer into the wide open goal and tying the contest at 2-2.
The Blackhawks seemed to gain a lot of momentum from that goal, and they had two power play chances as the second period wore on. They weren't able to convert on either opportunity however, with Sharp and Marian Hossa getting stoned on several chances against Holtby.
As the third period got started, the Blackhawks sustained a big blow to their offense as Kris Versteeg was taken off after blocking a shot with his hand. He was in visible pain on the bench, and eventually headed to the dressing room for treatment.
The Capitals continued their drive for a goal as the period wore on, but they ultimately couldn't score ater a solid power play. Ovechkin came close to scoring, and John Carlson rifled in a good shot from the point that was obscured by traffic, but Crawford made both stops to keep the game tied.
With about three and a half minutes left in the game, the Blackhawks went to the power play on a Matt Niskanen penalty, but they were unable to score. The Capitals did an excellent job of forcing the puck to the outside of the ice, and their patience was rewarded as Toews was whistled for a hooking call late in the contest to negate the rest of the Hawks' man-advantage.
With about 13 seconds left, the Capitals scored to take the late lead. Ovechkin drove the puck toward the net and whiffed on two chances, but it was Brouwer that ultimately picked up the puck and wristed a shot past Crawford to make it a 3-2 game.
The Hawks did have one final chance with about three seconds remaining as Kane got to a loose puck in the middle of the offensive zone, but Holtby made the save to preserve the victory for the Capitals as they swept the season series against Chicago.
The Blackhawks will head back indoors for their next game as they battle the Dallas Stars on Sunday night at the United Center.