How the Penguins have done in outdoor games

In the 19 years since the NHL first began playing regular season outdoor games, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been a regular presence in such showcases.

After all, it’s more of an event manufactured for television than a mundane, ordinary game. And the Penguins have long been a safe, reliable choice for national television broadcasters, especially with forward Sidney Crosby wearing the team’s jersey. That trend will continue with the upcoming Winter Classic matchup against the Boston Bruins at Boston’s Fenway Park on Jan. 2.

In five outdoor games, the Penguins have a 2-2-1 record. Here’s a look at how they have done in these contests.

Jan 1, 2008 – Penguins 2, Sabers 1, SO

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Penguins forward Sidney Crosby looks up during a pre-game ceremony prior to a game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY on Jan. 1, 2008.

The first Winter Classic was the NHL’s second outdoor game and it was a spectacle that lived up to all the hype. Staged at what was then called Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY, the weather cooperated in terms of presentation, though at the expense of the actual play on the ice.

With snow falling steadily throughout the afternoon, the Penguins and Sabers largely played a safe, conservative game while trying to play pucks through clumps of snow on the rink.

Thanks to a stout effort by backup goaltender Ty Conklin, the Penguins claimed victory in the shootout when the face of the league, Crosby, beat Sabers goaltender Ryan Miller with a slick shot through the five hole.

Jan. 1, 2011 – Capitals 3, Penguins 1

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Penguins defenseman Alex Goligoski kneels as the Washington Capitals celebrate a goal during a game at Heinz Field on Jan. 1, 2011.

Three years later, the Penguins hosted the rival Washington Capitals at the venue formerly known as Heinz Field, and the contest proved to be a pivotal moment for the franchise.

And in no good way.

Playing in a steady rainstorm that forced the game to be postponed from the afternoon to the evening, the Penguins took a lead in the second period thanks to a second period goal by forward Evgeni Malkin, but the Capitals responded with three unanswered goals to claim victory .

The most notable — or infamous — moment in this contest came at the end of the second period when Crosby suffered a concussion thanks to a hit by Capitals forward David Steckel.

That injury eventually brought Crosby’s season to a halt and led to various head and neck injuries that disrupted his career for parts of two seasons.

March 1, 2014 – Blackhawks 5, Penguins 1

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Chaz Ball | Tribune-Review

Penguins forward Sidney Crosby pursues a puck in front of Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford during a game at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. on March 1, 2014.

By the mid-point of the 2010s, the NHL began playing multiple outdoor games with different names. This contest at Chicago’s Soldier Field was part of the “Stadium Series” and featured a meeting between the league’s two preeminent franchises.

As a horrendous blizzard coming directly off of Lake Michigan dumped several inches of snow on the Second City, the Blackhawks dumped the Penguins in a rout.

The visiting Penguins tried to play a skilled, precise game in conditions that would not permit it and were limited to a single goal by forward James Neal. Meanwhile, the host Blackhawks adapted to the conditions and mucked out an impressive win.

Feb. 25, 2017 – Penguins 4, Flyers 2

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Chaz Ball | Tribune-Review

Penguins forward Matt Cullen fights for a puck with Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz (left) and Brayden Schenn during a game at Heinz Field on Feb. 25, 2017.

The NHL finally got around to pitting two of the league’s fiercest rivals — and safest television markets — with another Stadium Series game at Heinz Field.

With temperatures slightly above freezing and no precipitation, the Penguins played a clean, efficient game and doubled the Flyers on the scoreboard.

Forward Matt Cullen, then a ripe 40 years of age, score the eventual game-winning goal 1:50 into the third period.

Feb. 23, 2019 – Flyers 4, Penguins 3, OT

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The Philadelphia Flyers celebrate as Penguins forward Phil Kessel (81) skates off after Flyers forward Claude Giroux scored in overtime of a game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Feb. 23, 2019.

Nearly two years later, the Battle of Pennsylvania shifted to Lincoln Financial Field with another Stadium Series contest. With temperatures in the low 40s and steady rain, the Penguins left the other side of the Commonwealth with a loss as well as with their top defensive pairing injured.

At 16:23 of the first period, Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds dropped Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin with a rough hit into the boards, injuring Dumoulin. Partner Kris Letang tried to defend Dumoulin but wound up injured himself after attempting to attack Simmonds.

Despite that impediment, the Penguins managed to carry a lead late into regulation before giving up two goals within the final 3:04 of regulation. A goal by Flyers forward Claude Giroux at 1:59 of overtime capped off a rotten night for the Penguins.

Follow the Penguins all season long.

Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at srorabaugh@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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