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Mitch's Sports Report: Bruins Win Via Classic Bergeron At Outdoor Winter Classic

Plenty of cloud cover, no sun glare off the ice, and no rain to hamper the conditions for outdoor hockey.

Throwback uniforms worn by players representing two Original Six NHL franchises, and a  fedora on the head of Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy that looked like something a private eye would wear in a black and white noir thriller.

And the game? Well, that was a thriller as well.

You couldn't have asked much more from the NHL's outdoor Winter Classic, played in front of 76,000 fans at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana on New Year's Day, most of them cheering for the nearby Chicago Blackhawks, who had leads of 1-0 and 2-1, only to see the Bruins fight back each time and finally take a lead late in the third period on a put back goal by fourth line center Sean Kuraly, who back-handed home a rebound from a slap shot that caromed off his linemate Chris Wagner, and proved to be the game winner in Boston's 4-2 victory.

The Bruins also got goals from David Pastrnak, his team leading 24th of the year, but it was Pastrnak's teammate Patrice Bergeron who made the biggest play of the game, and one that bailed out Pastrnak for a mistake that easily could have resulted in a Chicago win instead of a Boston triumph.

Trailing 2-1, the Bruins went on the power play, but Pastrnak tried to fiddle with the puck just inside the Chicago blue line and had his pocket picked by Chicago's David Kampf, who took off for a breakaway on a short-handed bid that would have given the Hawks a two-goal lead, but Bergeron, a perennial Selke trophy candidate for the game's best defensive forward, raced after Kampf, never gave up on the play, and bothered him just enough to disrupt any atempt on Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, and Bergeron was able to break up the play without drawing a penalty.

So the Bruins got the puck back, still on the power play, and wouldn't you know it, it was Bergeron who a few seconds later backhanded a loose puck in the slot behind Chicago goalie Cam Ward, and the Bruins had tied it at two instead of being down by two.

It's easy to overlook just how good a player Bergeron is because he's not flashy like Pastrnak, or an offensive juggernaut like Alex Ovechkin, but he's every bit their equal in his overall two-way game, and he got to show that off in front of nearly 80,000 people and a national TV audience yesterday.

The other stars in this game were the goaltenders, both outstanding and able to keep the game a tight affair with many saves of the spectacular variety. Tuukka Rask got the win, his second in a row, making 36 saves, and lived up to the Fighting Irish tag line he had painted onto the back of his special Winter Classic mask: Play Like A Champion Today.

Both teams did, but it was the Bruins coming away with the critical two points that puts them into a tie now with the Buffalo Sabres for third place in the Atlantic division, and one point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens, who now own the first wild card playoff berth.

The NY Yankees made a free agent signing yesterday, with ESPN reporting that former Colorado Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays all-star short stop Troy Tulowitzki has agreed to join the Bronx Bombers.

There's little risk here for the Yankees, who will let the Blue Jays pay off the lion's share of Tulowitzki's remaining $20 Million contract. Toronto feels it's time to cut their losses after Tulowitzki missed the entire 2018 season following surgery to remove bone spurs from his heels, but the Yanks can take a chance that the 34-year year old still has a lot left in the tank, and it won't hurt with the fan base that he grew up idolizing another short stop, Yankee great Derek Jeter.

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