WASHINGTON — A bit too much sunshine filled the sky at the opening faceoff of the Winter Classic, and seat cushions rained down when the winning goal was scored just before the final whistle.

The replica of the U.S. Capitol in center field was a nice touch, given that the real thing is obscured by scaffolding because of ongoing repairs.

Alex Ovechkin, the player most responsible for making the nation’s capital worthy of hosting the NHL’s annual outdoor game, scored a goal, and he was also among the first to mob Troy Brouwer, whose power-play goal decided the game with 12.9 seconds to play Thursday.

The NHL showcase was every bit the thrill for the host Capitals, who beat the Blackhawks 3-2 on New Year’s Day.

“We start talking about Winter Classic since we started the season, and this is it,” Ovechkin said. “I remember Brouwie said it’s a good time to show up and make a show. And he did.”

Brouwer scored against his former team to cap a chaotic sequence. Ovechkin had his stick broken on a slash by Brandon Saad. While Ovechkin was raising his hands to make sure the officials would the call the penalty, Brouwer gathered the loose puck in the left circle.

“Somebody had to try and keep it alive, so I just kind of turned around, threw it to the net,” Brouwer said. “I’m not even sure where it went in, but I heard the noise of the crowd, heard the noise of the guys on the ice.”

What a noise it was, a playoff-level celebration by players on the ice and fans in the stands, many of whom flung their commemorative Winter Classic seat cushions high into the air.

It was even more special for Brouwer because his father, who suffered a stroke in 2010, made the rare trip to see his son play in person.

“Knowing how my dad is, right now he’s probably got a couple of tears,” Brouwer said.

The seventh Winter Classic drew 42,832 to Nationals Park. Players stood on a sheet of blue ice meant to represent the Reflecting Pool during the national anthem, then faced off under a gorgeous blue sky – too gorgeous, if truth be told.

The sun’s glare on the white ice of the main rink made it difficult to see the puck, and Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner made good on his plan to play the game wearing sunglasses.

The teams switched sides at the 10-minute mark of the first period to even things out.


BLACKHAWKS: Left wing Kris Versteeg “could be out for a bit” with an injury sustained in the Winter Classic.

Versteeg was hurt when he blocked Eric Fehr’s shot with his left hand early in the third.

WILD: Minnesota sent forward Tyler Graovac to the Iowa Wild of the AHL.

MAPLE LEAFS: Toronto is placing forward Joffrey Lupul on the injured list due to the lower-body injury sustained in a shootout victory over Boston on New Year’s Eve.

OILERS: Defenseman Keith Aulie was suspended for two games without pay by the NHL for an illegal check to the head of Calgary Flames forward Matt Stajan.

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