PITTSBURGH – It was not a night for stars. A steady drizzle obscured the Western Pennsylvania sky and the rain limited the elite talent gathered on the temporary ice rink at Heinz Field.

Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin were used to sell the fourth annual Winter Classic. But Capitals forward Eric Fehr was the one to win it. The 25-year-old native of Winkler Manitoba – population 9,106 - scored the go-ahead goal in the second period and also provided an insurance goal in the third to lift Washington to a 3-1 victory before a crowd of 68,111 and national television audiences on NBC in the United States and CBC in Canada.

“It felt unbelievable. The first time we came out for the first period there the fans were loud and it was just everything you kind of dreamed of,” Fehr said. “It was a perfect night.”

The Caps (23-12-5, 51 points) won in uncomfortable conditions at the home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. They also gained ground in the standings on the Penguins (25-12-3, 53 points), who still lead the Eastern Conference. Washington is 5-0-1 since enduring an eight-game losing streak last month that included just two standings points for overtime and shootout losses.

“It was one of the best feeling of my life,” said Ovechkin, who took a game-high six shots on goal, but didn’t register a point. “Again, when you see it’s sold out it’s like I can’t imagine when football players play every game like this. It’s unbelievable and it’s the kind of thing you want to do all the time.”

Pittsburgh had more shots in the first period – 16 to 12 – but the Caps  generated a few quality scoring chances of their own . Defenseman John Carlson smacked one off the goal post only to see Penguins forward Mark Letestu do the same a few minutes later. But neither team could push a puck across the goal line through the first 20 minutes.

As the rain increased, Washington recovered in the second period – thanks in part to a questionable decision by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. First the Caps tied the game at 6 minutes, 54 seconds when Mike Knuble banged home a power-play goal after a furious flurry in front of the Pittsburgh goal.

Washington almost went ahead later in the period after Fleury lost his balance and couldn’t get off the ice as Jason Chimera tried to stuff a wrap-around attempt. There was no one to stop him – except the diving stick of Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. That brilliant play kept the game tied.

But at 14:45 Fleury tried to play a puck behind his goal and fell victim to the shaky ice. Caps rookie forward Marcus Johansson was on top of him in a flash and took the puck away. He then whipped a pass out front to Fehr, who blasted home the go-ahead goal.

Late in the period Crosby was clipped by Washington forward David Steckel just as time ran out and the Penguins’ star center crumpled to the ice. He was assisted by the Pittsburgh trainers towards the team bench for a time and then left the ice in obvious pain. No penalty was called on the play and Crosby returned for the third period.

“I didn’t even know it was [Crosby] until I looked back,” Steckel said. “I haven’t seen the hit yet. Obviously, it wasn’t intentional. I was just trying to get up in the play. He was there when I turned around I guess.”

With his team clinging to a one-goal lead, Fehr took a pass up ahead from Chimera and beat Fleury on the breakaway at 11:50 of the third to put the Caps in control. It was his seventh goal of the season one year after scoring a career-high 21. But on a team with so many offensive weapons, Fehr isn’t exactly a household name. He is now.

“I was definitely happy I could score, that’s for sure,” Fehr said. “I felt good. The first one felt unbelievable. But we had a good lead going in the third there. We just wanted to play defense and fortunately I was able to get that second one.”