BOSTON — The Boston Bruins provided their own unique finish to Fenway Park's history of memorable endings.
Marco Sturm capped a late comeback with an overtime goal, Tim Thomas saved his best for the end and the Bruins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 Friday in the Winter Classic, the first NHL game at the home of the Boston Red Sox.
Mark Recchi, a former Flyer, tied it with a power-play goal with 2:18 left in the third period, ending Michael Leighton's shutout streak of more than 150 minutes. Then Sturm connected 1:57 into overtime on a pass from Patrice Bergeron.
Teammates poured off the bench and gold-and-black clad Bruins fans roared with excitement. The Flyers waited patiently on the ice to shake hands with the team that had just captured the game in the waning moments.
Until the rally, the only goal was Danny Syvret's first of his NHL career, at 4:42 of the second period.
A sellout crowd of 38,112 watched in near-ideal conditions in the league's third annual New Year's Day showcase. Skies were overcast and the gametime temperature was 40 degrees, the highest of any of the three Winter Classics. Snow and rain forecast earlier in the week never fell.
The Winter Classic was previously played at Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the Buffalo Bills play, and Wrigley Field, baseball's second-oldest stadium and home of the Chicago Cubs.
Fenway is the oldest, opening in 1912. Football, basketball, boxing and soccer also have been played there.
It was the scene of Ted Williams' 521st homer in the final at-bat of his career in 1960. It also was the park where Carlton Fisk waved his homer fair down the left-field line in Boston's Game 6 win in the 1975 World Series.
For all but the last three minutes Friday, Leighton was unbeatable. He had been claimed on waivers from Carolina on Dec. 15 and won all the games in the Flyers' snapped four-game winning streak. His shutout streak reached 154 minutes, 7 seconds before Recchi, stationed just in front of him, tipped in Derek Morris' shot from the right circle for his eighth goal of the season.
The Bruins won for the fifth time in six games when Bergeron kept the puck from Mike Richards, who slipped along the left boards, and passed to Sturm just in front of Leighton. Sturm picked up his team-leading 14th goal.
The rink ran from the left field to right field foul lines, primarily across the infield, with the center dot at second base. The ice seemed to hold up well except for an area in the faceoff circle – just about the spot from which Morris fed Recchi – to the left of the net in short left field. It was smoothed out at the end of the first period and early in the second.
A few minutes later, Thomas made a mistake that could have ruined his day.
Syvret scored from the left point just as Thomas cross-checked Scott Hartnell to the ice from behind. Seconds earlier, Hartnell had hit Thomas, knocking him off his skates.
"You can feel the energy when we tied it up," Thomas said. "At that point, I was very grateful to tie the game because (their) goal was basically because I lost my cool and wasn't following the puck."
But Thomas made an outstanding save on Danny Briere shortly before Sturm scored, then was selected for the U.S. Olympic team, announced just after the game.
The Bruins became the first home team to win the Winter Classic. Pittsburgh beat Buffalo 2-1 in a shootout in 2008 and Detroit topped Chicago 6-4 in 2009.
There were several reminders of an earlier era.
Bruins coach Claude Julien wore a fedora behind his bench, just as Toe Blake did when he was leading the Montreal Canadiens to eight Stanley Cups in 13 years as coach from 1955-1968.
And with a decrease in fighting compared to the days of the Flyers' Broad Street Bullies of the '70s, Philadelphia's Dan Carcillo and Boston's Shawn Thornton engaged in the first bout in Winter Classic history. Carcillo ended it with a hard right that sent Thornton to the ice in the first period.
The NHL launched the Winter Classic hoping a return to hockey's outdoor roots would attract fans.
The interest has ramped up each year.
Across the street from Fenway, only Winter Classic related items were on display in the Red Sox team store. A replica of Zdeno Chara's Bruins jersey carried a $300 price tag. The hottest items were knit caps, going for $20 to $35, according to store manager Scot Saklad.
The teams were from cities that have celebrated two of the last three World Series winners, the Red Sox in 2007 and Phillies in 2008. In 2009, the New York Yankees finished ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East and beat the Phillies in the World Series, disappointing passionate fans from both losing towns.
"Their intense dislike of New York is something they have in common," Curt Schilling, who pitched for Boston and Philadelphia, said on NBC during the first intermission.
Fans of both teams had something else in common Friday. They had just seen a marquee game with a magnificent climax.
"That's probably what I dreamed of this morning," Sturm said, "to score in overtime, especially in this game."
NOTES: James Taylor, a Boston native, sang the U.S. national anthem. Daniel Powter, a native of Vernon, British Columbia, sand the Canadian national anthem. ... Former stars Bobby Orr of Boston and Bobby Clarke of Philadelphia served as honorary captains and shook hands at center ice 10 minutes before the game.