Kessel scores hat trick as Eastern youngsters beat Western side 9-8

Kessel, who underwent surgery for testicular cancer earlier this season, also added an assist in the four-on-four event before a half-empty American Airlines Center.

The hat trick wasn’t enough for the MVP award, however. New Jerseys Devils forward Zach Parise earned that honour with two goals and four assists for the East.

“It was fun. You could see the skill out there,” Parise said. “Then in the last 30 seconds the intensity picked up when we were only a goal ahead.”

Andrej Meszaros of the Ottawa Senators also had two goals while Ryan Whitney of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Paul Rangers of the Tampa Bay Lightning had the others for the East. Penguins star centre Evgeni Malkin, the odds-on favourite to win the NHL’s Calder Trophy this season as rookie of the year, somehow didn’t manage a single point on his team’s nine goals.

Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings, Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Matt Carle of the San Jose Sharks all had two goals apiece for the West, which trailed 9-4 in the third before making it close with four straight goals to end the game.

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“I had a lack of focus after we got the big lead,” said Atlanta’s Kari Lehtonen, the East goalie. “They were scoring a lot, but I was happy to stop Jussi there at the end.”

Jussi Jokinen of the Dallas Stars and Alexander Radulov of the Nashville Predators also scored.

The game was the appetizer for the skills competition featuring this year’s NHL all-stars later Tuesday night. The 55th NHL-star game goes Wednesday night.

The NHL should maybe re-think the YoungStars event. The game was at half-speed with players hanging out at opposing blue-lines waiting for breakaway passes. There was very little buzz or excitement in the building.