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Sidney Crosby celebrates his winning shootout goal in Pittsburgh's 2-1 win outdoors. ((David Duprey/Associated Press))

Each team got at least one point and the fans got a show as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout outdoors at the NHL Winter Classic.

Almost as if scripted in the game's marquee game, Sidney Crosby scored the deciding shootout goal in a 2-1 win in front of an estimated crowd of 72,000 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo.

"The game on the line and to see this many people, I mean, it's mind-boggling," Crosby told CBC Sports. "The best way to describe it is the Gladiator movie.

"It's an eerie feeling, but a great opportunity."

The game was anything but predictable for even its most skilled players.

The weather was ever-changing, with snow, mist and clear conditions at different points during the game, which ran well over three hours.

Manageable in the first two periods, the conditions proved nettlesome in the third, halting the game's momentum. As well, patches of ice and goal-post pins periodically needed repair.

Jason Pominville told CBC Sports the players were constantly wiping their visors with towels to help their vision.

Colby Armstrong of the Penguins and Buffalo's Brian Campbell were the goal scorers in regulation time.

Crosby assisted on Armstrong's goal and had 53 points, tied for second in the NHL at game's end.

Seconds after the puck was dropped, Crosby drove to the Buffalo net hard, with Armstrong pouncing on a puck in the Buffalo crease for the opening goal just 21 seconds into the game.

The Sabres were fortunate the game wasn't effectively over by the end of the first, as Armstrong and Ryan Malone each hit the post.

Buffalo started to find their legs late in the period, with Thomas Vanek's blast catching Conklin's right arm in the final seconds.

Crosby told CBC Sports during the first intermission it was a great atmosphere to play in, but that the teams had to adapt to the conditions.

"It's pretty simple hockey out there," Crosby. "[You] just try to get the puck moving forward and let your feet do the work and hopefully get some shots on the net."

The Penguins weren't able to take their star's advice and were outshot 14-2 in the second.

Tim Connolly's slapshot within the first minute tested Conklin, and seconds later Connolly passed to Campbell in the slot. The defenceman fired a wristshot over Conklin's glove at the 1:25 mark.

Derek Roy just missed giving Buffalo its first lead, hitting the post on his chance.

Pittsburgh entered the Sabres' zone several times in the second, but was forced to the outside and couldn't get prime scoring chances.

"The ice isn't that bad, just a lot of snow build-up," Connolly said in the second intermission.

It got worse in the third, with snowfall and bad patches of ice causing several delays.

Rather than play for a tie in the unusual circumstances, each team made a stab for a win late in the period. Crosby tried unsuccessfully to break between two Sabres on his chance, while Roy and Vanek were foiled by Conklin.

Buffalo missed an opportunity with a 4-on-3 power play during overtime when Armstrong took a penalty.

After Ales Kotalik of the Sabres and Pittsburgh's Kris Letang scored for their respective sides, it was Crosby's time to steal the show in the shootout.

"Just to get to the puck to the net, you don't want to lose it," Crosby said of his strategy. "But once I got there I just tried to react, tried not to think too much and tried to make the play."

Pittsburgh has won four consecutive games, while the Sabres have dropped four in a row.

Conklin, who starred with 36 saves, has the distinction of starting consecutive NHL outdoor games.

Rookie Letang is perfect in four shootout opportunities this season.

He was in goal for the Oilers on Nov. 22, 2003, when they lost to Montreal in the frigid game dubbed the Heritage Classic at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.

Georges Laraque, now with Pittsburgh, also competed for the Oilers.

Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller and Adam Hall of the Penguins were collegiate teammates for Michigan State when it played Michigan on Oct. 6, 2001, an NCAA contest played at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich.

Miller finished with 25 saves for the Sabres on Tuesday.