MONTREAL – Alex Ovechkin didn’t even need to score a goal to author his latest signature moment. This one came on style points alone.
The flashy Russian brought some props to the NHL all-star skills event on Saturday night and was voted the winner for a second straight year.
He skated in for his last attempt wearing sunglasses and a fishing hat complete with a Canadian flag, much to the delight of a rather subdued crowd at the Bell Centre. The fans at home must of enjoyed it too because all of the voting was done via text message and Ovechkin was crowned the winner.
It hardly mattered that he only put the puck in on a rebound – a goal that wouldn’t have counted under normal circumstances.
“I think the fans have to see who we are,” Ovechkin said. “They see our skills and I think the last trick was just for fun. I think fans love it.”
The Washington Capitals sniper currently leads the league in scoring with 31 goals and should be ranked No. 1 in enthusiasm as well.
His infectious attitude was on display all evening. Ovechkin sat on the bench after the breakaway challenge with his cellphone and punched away at the keypad.
“I voted for Stamkos,” he said.
The breakaway event debuted last year in Atlanta to mixed reviews. The players showed more creativity this time around but were still unable to convert with any frequency.
Martin St. Louis pulled off the flashiest move by waving his stick around in the air and somehow keeping the puck on his blade.
Unlike in past years, the players were not competing on behalf of their respective conferences so the events stood alone. Other individual winners included Zdeno Chara in the hardest shot, Shane Doan in the elimination shootout, Evgeni Malkin in shooting accuracy and Andrew Cogliano in the fastest skater.
Interestingly, Malkin helped Ovechkin get into costume and even squirted some Gatorade into his mouth for effect. The two Russians have a well-documented rivalry on the ice and have been rumoured to be locked in a feud off it.
There isn’t a player in the NHL with more skill and less of a persona than Malkin.
However, he displayed a more playful side here. Malkin looked relaxed among the league’s best players and even signed autographs for fans willing to throw shirts and jerseys over the glass to him.
After beating Dany Heatley in the accuracy event, he raised his arms in celebration while standing at centre ice. Malkin hit seven targets in eight shots.
“I’m very happy,” he said afterwards in halting English. “I’m not nervous. It’s easy for me. I love Montreal.”
One of the biggest ovations of the night came when Chara won the hardest shot competition with a blast of 105.4 miles per hour, eclipsing Al Iafrate’s 16-year-old record and earning him the title for the third straight year.
The victory also came with an $24,000 prize that Chara donated to the Right To Play charity. That was only fitting given that the big defenceman came up with the idea for each participant to throw $1,000 into the pot – a sum each player’s NHL team and the league decided to match.
Doan looked genuinely surprised after outlasting 35 other shooters to win the elimination shootout. The Phoenix Coyotes captain is 4-for-11 in shootout attempts over his career but did much better than that in the do-or-die competition.
“I’m sure (Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky) is probably the most surprised guy in the league right now,” Doan said with a laugh.
The evening started off with Cogliano becoming the second straight member of the Edmonton Oilers to win the fastest skater event. He was in Montreal for the YoungStars Game and completed a lap around the rink in 14.31 seconds.
The 21-year-old didn’t expect to be bringing a trophy back to Alberta with him.
“I lost when we did this in Edmonton,” said Cogliano. “I’m 0-for-2 on my team.”