- Associated Press - Saturday, January 1, 2011

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Eric Fehr upstaged stars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin by scoring twice and the Washington Capitals waded through rain drops to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in a wet Winter Classic on Saturday night.

It was the NHL’s first nighttime Winter Classic, and the first played in occasional rain, but the Capitals handled the elements _ and a scoreless Crosby _ just fine.

Fehr gave Washington its first lead at 2-1 in the second period after Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury abandoned the net, then sealed it with a breakaway goal in the third. Mike Knuble also scored.

“It was raining pretty good out there,” Fehr said. “But it was a perfect night.”

Washington goalie Semyon Varlamov, starting because of Michal Neuvirth’s thigh injury, gave up Evgeni Malkin’s goal in the second period but turned aside the other 32 shots.

The game was originally scheduled for 1:00 p.m. EST, before the NHL pushed back the start because of the rain threat. Neither team seemed to mind, and the Capitals _ led by an animated and motivated Ovechkin _ clearly enjoyed the prime-time stage.

“I can’t imagine what football players (feel) playing like this,” Ovechkin said. “It’s unbelievable. It makes you want to do it all the time.”

The Capitals, perennial playoff underachievers, warmed up to this big game.

“It was close to the Stanley Cup finals,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We don’t deny it meant more than just two points. It was a fabulous game.”

After a scoreless first period in which the two teams adjusted to playing outdoors at night _ many never had at any organized level _ and the choppy ice, the Penguins took a 1-0 lead. Malkin took Kris Letang’s banked pass off the boards to beat Varlamov inside the near post at 2:15.

Malkin’s 14th goal caused a never-before-seen sight at Heinz Field: fans in the crowd of 68,111 twirling Terrible Towels to salute a Penguins goal rather than a Steelers touchdown.

Pittsburgh couldn’t maintain the momentum, though, as the Capitals held down Crosby, who went scoreless for a second successive game after posting at least one point in 25 consecutive games. He had five shots.

“He’s one of the best players in the game,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson said. “But it shows that if we stick to our game, we can get it done out there.”

The Capitals, who lost at home to Pittsburgh 3-2 in a shootout on Dec. 23, tied it about 4 1/2 minutes later when Knuble shoveled a shot past Fleury amid a tumble of bodies in the crease. Zbynek Michalek upended Mike Green just to the right of Fleury, and Knuble took advantage of the confusion to score his ninth.

Fehr _ pronounced Fair _ gave Washington the lead at 14:45 of the second on a gift goal. Fleury went behind the net to play the puck, but Marcus Johansson beat him to it and fed it in front, where Fehr tipped it into an empty net.

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