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Forget the rain; NBC spoils 2011 Winter Classic

The talk going into Saturday night's Winter Classic centered on the warm weather and rain showers that postponed the game then bogged down play once the puck was finally dropped. But awful in-game production by NBC's crew made the Capitals' 3-1 win over the Penguins nearly impossible to watch, likely turning off thousands of casual fans who switched over from an Oklahoma blowout in the Fiesta Bowl to check out the hyped-up matchup between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.

This wasn't NBC's first rodeo when it came to the Winter Classic. The network has broadcast the annual outdoor game since 2008, but this year, they inexplicably decided to debut "the vertigo cam" at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field. Whether it was the swirling shots from behind the net or the Donald Brashear-slow "zooms" from the blimp, the camera work was unclear and brutally disorienting.

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And apparently someone skipped the Cinematography 101 lecture on the 180 degree rule.

It's a shame, too, because it was a decent game between the Capitals and the Penguins. The soggy weather made puddles on the rink, which cut out some of the skill, and there wasn't much open ice. But, as always, it was a chippy, entertaining game between these Eastern rivals.

Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin scored on a breakaway in the second period to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead, but the Capitals scored three unanswered goals -- two from Eric Fehr -- to pick up the win. Capitals keeper Semyon Varlamov was very solid, stopping 32 of the Penguins' 33 shots.

(Fun fact: The previous three winners of the Winter Classic advanced to at least the conference finals of that year's playoffs, and two went to the Stanley Cup Finals. Both teams lost, though.)

Still, what stands out from this year's Winter Classic is an opportunity lost for the NHL. Sure, rain mucked up play a bit, but dizzy -- perhaps even nauseated -- non-puck lovers probably didn't notice because they quickly changed the channel back to a bad bowl game. What a shame.

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