By Steve Keating
BOSTON (Reuters) - Marco Sturm celebrated the New Year in style by firing the overtime winner as the Boston Bruins rallied to claim a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers and cap a thrilling Winter Classic on Friday.
Sturm, who has been included in Germany's squad for February's Vancouver Olympics, redirected a shot from Patrice Bergeron past netminder Michael Leighton at a packed Fenway Park, better known as the home of the Boston Red Sox.
"It's great," Sturm told reporters. "That's probably something I dreamed about this morning. It's probably going to be my most memorable goal ever and I'm going to enjoy it."
The bitter rivalry between the two improving Eastern Conference rivals produced the first fight in a Winter Classic when Flyers tough guy Dan Carcillo and Bruins Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves midway through the opening period.
After a scoreless first period, the Flyers grabbed the lead early in the second when Danny Syvret unleashed a rocket from the top of the left faceoff circle to beat netminder Tim Thomas as he notched a memorable first career NHL goal.
It looked like Syvret's goal might be the winner until former Flyer Mark Recchi converted a power play chance with 2:18 left in regulation by tipping Derek Morris's shot past Leighton.
With temperatures hovering around a comfortable 40 degrees Fahrenheit, giddy hockey fans filled the streets and bars around Fenway that just a few hours earlier were jammed with revelers.
The weather worries that had dominated the build-up to the third Winter Classic, a regular season NHL game played outdoors on New Year's day, never materialized as the mix of rain and snow that had been forecast steered clear of the Boston area.
The game marked the second consecutive year the NHL had taken over one of Major League Baseball's stadiums to stage what has become the league's signature event.
Building on last year's hugely successful game at Chicago's Wrigley Field, the Classic continued to evolve by tapping into the nostalgia of playing outdoors while touching all the emotional bases.
The 97-year-old Fenway Park, the oldest in the Major Leagues, provided another breathtaking backdrop for a sporting spectacle that has quickly become a New Year's Day tradition.
Prior to the opening faceoff and between periods, tiny tykes played a pickup game under the shadow of the Green Monster.
They skated around while a parade of former hockey greats, including members of the 1960 and 1980 Miracle On Ice U.S. Olympic teams, were introduced to the 38,112 capacity crowd.
"The experience is once-in-a-lifetime," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. "It's not just a cliche.
"Fenway Park, Bruins, Flyers, 40,000 fans on a perfect day you couldn't ask for anything better for the game of hockey.
"It was a great day for hockey."
(Editing by Ken Ferris)