NHL Last Night: All Star Edition

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, Alex 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 Sunday night.

"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 3½ 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.

The sold-out crowd voiced oohs and ahhs at moves such as Evgeni Malkin's puck-dribbling on his stick and his between-the-legs move that preceded his unassisted goal 7:45 into the second period that made it 7-4 for the East.

But the tradition-loving fans of the Canadiens remained quiet through lulls of action in the game that featured few whistles and a rare cover-up by the beleaguered goalies. They chanted "Let's Go Habs" and sang "Ole Ole Ole Ole" to add a soundtrack.

Bailey, the lion mascot of the Los Angeles Kings, banged his drum to incite some rhythmic clapping, too.

Kovalev, one of four Canadiens in the starting lineup, scored the first of his goals in the opening period when his team opened a 4-1 lead against Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere — a Montreal native.

"I wasn't surprised," said New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, a former Canadiens teammate of Kovalev's. "The stage was set and he had a really great game. Everybody knows he has a lot of skills and he played unbelievable. It was fun to watch."

Both sides recorded 11 shots in the first period. Canadiens goalie Carey Price held tough after giving up Tkachuk's early score and allowed only one more to Patrick Marleau with 11.5 seconds left in the frame that brought the West to 4-2.

It got rougher in the second.

The teams combined for eight goals in the opening 10:34, and the West pumped five past New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist to get even at 7. Lundqvist and Finnish counterpart Niklas Backstrom of Minnesota each faced 21 shots and gave up 10 goals combined as the game headed to the third tied 8-8.

Notes:@ There hadn't been an All-Star penalty since World D Sandis Ozolinsh went off for hooking in the third period of the 2000 game. There were 441 minutes, 31 seconds of All-Star play between penalties. ... Thomas is the fifth goalie to post consecutive All-Star wins. ... The record for All-Star goals is 26, set in 2001 when the North Americans beat the World 14-12. ... The 10-goal second period tied the mark for a frame. It has happened four times.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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