Another winter classic

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 12:29 AM ET

BOSTON -- It was hockey's version of a walk-off home run, the perfect end to a magnificent spectacle.

With a capacity crowd of 38,112 stuffed into the baseball cathedral that is Fenway Park yesterday, Marco Sturm became a New England hero on a stage where the Big Pappis and Carlton Fisks of the world have occupied that role in the past.

As local celebrities like Bobby Orr, Curt Schilling and Dennis Leary sat on the edge of their frosty seats, Sturm needed just one swing of the bat -- or, in this case, swipe of his stick -- to put the finishing touches on the NHL's storybook day.

With the fabled Green Monstah supplying a surreal background, Sturm's game winner at 1:57 of overtime gave the host Boston Bruins a dramatic 2-1 overtime victory over the hated Philadelphia Flyers, igniting an explosion of cheers and fireworks.

"It's probably what I dreamed about this morning," Sturm said of his magical moment. "I think every player does when it comes to scoring in overtime and especially on a day like this.

"It's probably going to be my most memorable goal ever, and I'm going to enjoy it."

This was about much more than just a nail-biting finish. This was about an afternoon of riveting theatre that could not have gone been any more successful for the league.

From the Winter Wonderland setting Thursday to the perfect weather conditions yesterday, the 2010 Winter Classic showed national television audiences in two countries that this event, bigger and better than ever, is here to stay.

Trouble is, what do they do for an encore?

Outdoing this one, which could be called the Fantastic Finish at Frozen Fenway, will be a difficult task indeed, one that NHL chief operating officer John Collins certainly will grapple with enthusiam.

Collins should have no problems wooing additional sponsors for future Winter Classics if he uses yesterday's riveting edition as a selling point.

Ironically, for much of the afternoon, the Bruins did little to spark enthusiam among the home throng. When former London Knight Danny Syvret scored his first NHL goal at 4:42 of the second period to put the visitors up 1-0, the Flyers threatened to spoil this Boston Glee Party.

Enter veteran Mark Recchi, whose power-play tally with less than three minutes remaining tied the game 1-1, sparking a roar normally reserved for a David Ortiz grand slam.

"It was pretty awesome, something I'll never forget," Recchi said.

A late goal to force overtime. How could this script possibly have been any better for organizers, especially after Sturm's subsequent coup de grace sealed the deal.

There were suggestions that the Bruins had too-many-men on the shift that Sturm scored. If so, players admitted the faux pas had absolutely no bearing on the play.

While Sturm understandably received player-of-the-game honours, the real star of the show was the setting.

Just ask Garret Morris, brother of Bruins defenceman Derek Morris. On Christmas Day, he reached into his stocking to find a ticket for a seat atop the famed 37-foot high left field wall.

Sitting just to the side of the foul pole nailed by a Fisk home run during the 1975 World Series, Garret could just shake his head in disbelief.

"Being in the Monster Seats watching hockey at Fenway. What could be better?" he asked.

On this memorable afternoon, absolutely nothing.


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