The third annual Winter Classic, and first professional hockey game at Fenway Park, was a riveting event capped with high drama, as Marco Sturm's goal at 1:57 of overtime gave the Boston Bruins a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The B's forced overtime on veteran Mark Recchi's power-play strike with 2:18 left in regulation.
At that moment, Bruins players learned what Fenway feels like on a midsummer night when David Ortiz clocks a game-tying homer against the Yankees.
"Just knowing that I had tied the game, and the whole energy of the building, being at Fenway, it kicked in when I got to the bench," Recchi said. "I was so excited. I just got in a big pile and we were screaming at each other, and when I got to the bench, the place was going nuts. It was a pretty special feeling, that's for sure."
The event -- played in front of a packed Fenway house of 38,112 -- was a spectacle, one in which home runs were replaced by slap shots amid a New Year's Day that New Englanders won't soon forget.
The ending is one that should go down in Boston sports lore.
"That's what I probably dreamed of this morning," said Sturm. "It's always going to be one of my most memorable goals ever, and I'll definitely enjoy it."
It was a day to remember, even before the storybook finish.
"This is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. "I think this is great for the region, it's great for the Bruins, it's great for Boston. To have this iconic ballpark host this game today, it's a very special event."
With a considerable amount of Flyers fans also on hand, the stands had a bit of a Red Sox-Yankees feel, with chants of "Let's Go Flyers" being demonstratively overruled by "Let's Go Bruins."
"I think my first shift, I almost missed it because I was looking around so much," said Sturm. "When you walked in and started the game, it was incredible."
Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline, always played heading into the bottom of the eighth inning for Red Sox games, was heard during a stoppage of play with eight minutes left in the third period.
"Just walking out today with all the fans in their seats gave a little taste of what a baseball player would feel like, and that's cool for me because I grew up playing baseball also," said Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas.
Bruins legend Bobby Orr came out for a ceremonial opening faceoff with Flyers honorary captain Bobby Clarke. The Dropkick Murphys performed live in center field, playing "Shipping Up To Boston," a song usually heard at Fenway when Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon enters a game.
And there was a flyover that gave players and coaches on both sides the chills.
"It was awesome," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. "Right from the start, from the anthems to the stealth plane that flew overhead to the fans. Just being at Fenway Park, looking around and taking it all in was something special."
Unlike Thursday's practice, when the players went through their paces in majestic snow, Friday was dry and mild -- game-time temperature was 39.6 degrees. But that made for a more true playing surface.
"The weather was incredible -- the atmosphere and weather," Recchi said. "It couldn't have been better for a hockey game. It wasn't too cold. It was nice. The ice was good -- a little bouncy, but it was fast."
While no current Red Sox players were on hand, Curt Schilling, who won countless big games for both Boston and Philadelphia, took in the Classic while wearing a Bruins jersey with No. 30 (Thomas) on the back.
Though Schilling passed up a chance to run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the late Ted Kennedy, he showed his savvy as a politician by refusing to say which sports town was better -- Boston or Philadelphia.
"That's asking to pick a fight with somebody," Schilling said during an intermission interview on NBC. "From an athlete's perspective, you've got two cities with four professional sports franchises, so you've got 12 months a year of sports. Their intense dislike of New York is something that they have in common.
"I think the difference is that maybe in Boston, you have to drive around and listen to fans berate you for a week. In Philadelphia, the fans might throw something at you. It's maybe a little more physical in Philadelphia, but both cities are incredible places to play."
One of the toughest tickets in the history of Boston sports, the Classic packed Fenway with a capacity crowd of 38,112.
"This is awesome -- this is my only Flyers game of this year, so the fact that it's outdoors at Fenway, it's awesome," said Jeff DeMaio, a Flyers fan who hails from Philadelphia but now lives in Louisiana. "I tried to get tickets for six months."
The increasingly popular New Year's spectacle has become one of the most important events for National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Though there was some talk that this year's Winter Classic could have been played at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. -- the home of the New England Patriots -- Bettman looked at Fenway as the obvious choice.
Last year's Classic was played at Wrigley Field in Chicago, while the inaugural event was at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, N.Y.
"We decided, consistent with what we did at Wrigley last year, that for the first time coming to Boston, we wanted it to be in an iconic venue," Bettman said. "This one opened in 1912 -- it's almost 100 years old. We felt being downtown in this venue at this point in time was the right thing."
There has yet to be an announcement on next year's Classic, though Yankee Stadium or Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia) are venues that could well get into the mix.
Award-winning singer James Taylor performed the national anthem, just like he has for World Series games at Fenway. Daniel Powter handled the Canadian anthem.
The Flyers broke the scoreless tie when defenseman Danny Syvret put one home at 4:42 of the second period. That goal held up until the late-game drama by the Bruins thrilled the Fenway faithful.
"It was very exciting," said Thomas. "I think everybody on our bench wanted it so bad. Marco scored the winner. It was one of the most incredible feelings I can remember."
"It was an unbelievable scenario," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "Not just the game, but even looking around. There's no doubt that there's something special about this park. There would have been nothing worse than leaving Fenway with that many fans here and not knowing how they would have reacted if we had scored. That went through my mind. It also pushed us to get that goal."
"This was a terrific day," said Bettman. "The 2010 NHL Winter Classic was played in a perfect setting by the world's best athletes for the world's greatest fans, and the response was overwhelming. Thanks to Dan Craig and his crew for creating outstanding ice. Thanks to Don Renzulli and the NHL Events group for creating a magnificent spectacle. Thanks to the teams, to the city of Boston and to the Red Sox for having welcomed our New Year's Day tradition so graciously."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.