Washington Capitals Star Alex Ovechkin scores in shootout to seal East's victory in All-Star Game
Courtesy of the Associated Press | 1/26/2009, 10:28 a.m.
MONTREAL -- The home of hockey produced an All-Star shootout from start to finish. All that was missing was Rocket Richard. In the city where the NHL was born 92 years earlier, with the All-Star game as the backdrop, Alexei Kovalev gave Montreal and Canadiens fans something new to cheer about in the 100th season of the league's most storied franchise.
Kovalev, the Canadiens' biggest current star, scored two breakaway goals and then scored in the shootout to help give the Eastern Conference All-Stars a wild 12-11 victory over the West on Sun. Jan. 25.
"You can't ask for a better package than this," said Kovalev, the East captain who had three points and skated off with MVP honors. "Get voted in the All-Star Game by the fans, starting lineup, being the captain, get MVP. This is something to remember the rest of your life."
It was the second-highest scoring game in All-Star history and the fifth decided after regulation.
"The last 5 minutes and going into the overtime you could tell neither team wanted to lose. It certainly picked up at the end there," said West defenseman Dan Boyle, one of 28 players with a point. "I've seen some of the games in the past, and I didn't think this one was too bad."
On a night filled with pageantry, there were the traditional breakaways and the usual absence of defense. What made this All-Star Game different was the presence and reverence for the players of long ago.
Several times, faceoffs were delayed as Hall of Fame Canadiens such as Henri Richard -- the brother of the late Maurice "Rocket" Richard -- Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer stepped out of the tunnel and waved to the crowd as part of the season-long celebration of the Canadiens' special anniversary.
While fans cheered, players showed their appreciation with on-ice stick tapping. Even linesman Pierre Racicot, a native of the Montreal area, tucked the puck away so he could clap for the Canadiens heroes, too.
"It was awesome," said Jonathan Toews, one of Chicago's two 20-year old All-Stars. "Everything was just so in sync, and the skill was unbelievable. The fans were so involved with everything that was happening on the ice. It was just a perfect ending to a perfect weekend."
Alex Ovechkin sealed the East's victory with a goal in the third round of the shootout. It capped off the busiest of nights for the NHL's reigning regular-season MVP, who also had a goal and two assists.
The biggest cheer of the night went to Kovalev, who scored on the second shootout shot against Vancouver's Roberto Luongo.
For the first time since shootouts were implemented by the NHL to eliminate ties after the 2004-05 lockout, an All-Star Game was decided by penalty shots. A shootout also settled the West's 6-5 win over the East in 2003.
This one was set up by a fast-paced finish. The teams were tied 8-8 after 40 minutes, and the East grabbed two leads in the final regulation frame, but couldn't get the winner past Luongo, who is from Montreal. The only power play went to the West, and it took until overtime to get it. Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek went off for hooking 2:22 into the extra session, and -- with the home fans chanting "Defense! Defense!" -- Boston goalie Tim Thomas held off the West and earned his second straight one-goal, All-Star win.
Thomas earned a return to the midseason classic by helping to backstop Boston to the best first-half record in the East. He stopped Phoenix's Shane Doan and Columbus' Rick Nash in a perfect shootout performance.
The West led 1-0 just 1:16 in, but didn't get back on top until Doan made it 9-8 just 32 seconds into the third period. Dany Heatley, who scored four goals in the only other All-Star game decided by shootout, got the East even at 9 at 2:17.
Toews restored the West's edge 15 seconds later and was in line to have the winner until Martin St. Louis tied it again for the East with 6:41 remaining. Toews' Blackhawks teammate, Patrick Kane, pushed the West on top for the final time 2 minutes later, and Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester forced overtime when he made it 11-11 with 3:39 left.
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who received a record number of votes this season, wasn't able to play because of a recent knee injury. He was warmly greeted during pregame introductions as team owner Mario Lemieux looked on from a suite.
Also missing were Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings, the Stanley Cup champions who were represented only by coach Mike Babcock on the West bench
Ovechkin turned his eyes to activity in the crowd and was caught on the mega video screen gazing at a pair of female fans who were dancing together at their seats. He flashed his gapped smile and was cheered as his stare was revealed.
Ovechkin, the reigning NHL MVP and the champion of the breakaway challenge in Saturday's skill competition, showed exactly why he has become such a fan favorite in his 3 1/2 seasons. He answered Keith Tkachuk's goal on the West's first shot with one of his own 5:10 later at 6:26, finishing off a sweet give-and-go with Boston's Marc Savard -- who scored the winning goal in the final minute of last year's All-Star game.