Kovalev leads East to shootout victory

MONTREAL (Ticker) — It only was fitting that a hometown hero
sent the sellout crowd at the Bell Centre home happy.

Alexei Kovalev of the host Montreal Canadiens scored twice in
regulation before netting the decisive goal in the shootout,
leading the Eastern Conference to an explosive 12-11 triumph
over the Western Conference in the 57th NHL All-Star Game on

It was the second All-Star Game decided in the bonus format, as
the West claimed a 6-5 victory in 2003 by converting three of
its four shootout attempts in Sunrise, Florida.

Reigning Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin of the Washington
Capitals also tallied in the bonus format after notching a goal
and two assists in regulation and Boston Bruins goaltender Tim
Thomas denied both shooters he faced following a 19-save
performance over 25 minutes for the East, which has won
consecutive one-goal affairs after dropping two of three
All-Star Games.

Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers
defenseman Jay Bouwmeester each scored a pair of goals and set
up another while Boston’s Marc Savard, who scored the winning
goal with 21 seconds remaining in the third period of last
year’s midseason gala, collected three assists.

Blue-liners Mark Streit of the New York Islanders and Tomas
Kaberle of the Toronto Maple Leafs notched two assists apiece
for the East.

A former Canadien, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray
recorded two goals and an assist for the West. Milan Hejduk of
the Colorado Avalanche and captains Patrick Marleau of San Jose
and Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets registered a goal and
two assists apiece and Joe Thornton of the Sharks set up three

Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan, San Jose defenseman Dan
Boyle and 2008 Calder Trophy winner Patrick Kane of the Chicago
Blackhawks each added a goal and an assist for the West.

Thomas picked up the win for the second consecutive year, while
Kovalev – who also notched an assist – was named Most Valuable
Player of the second-highest scoring All-Star Game in history.
In 2001, the North America and World teams combined for 26
tallies in Colorado.

The 34-year-old Thomas became the fifth goalie in history to
post back-to-back All-Star victories, joining Frank Brimsek
(1947-48), Jacques Plante (1958-59), Johnny Bower (1961-62) and
Martin Brodeur (1997-98).

“That’s nice,” Thomas said. “It’s the All-Star Game, it’s about
fun and putting on a good show for the fans, but it still feels
good to have two victories.”

Kovalev is the fifth Canadien to capture All-Star MVP honors and
first since Mark Recchi in 1997. Jean Beliveau (1964), Henri
Richard (1967) and Peter Mahovlich (1976) also accomplished the
feat for Montreal.

“You can’t ask for a better package than this,” said Kovalev,
who served as captain for the East. “Get voted in the All-Star
Game by the fans, starting lineup, being the captain, get MVP.
This is something you’re going to remember the rest of your

Streit, who played with Kovalev in Montreal for three seasons,
was not surprised by his former teammate’s performance.

“Everybody knows he has a lot of skills,” the Swiss blue-liner
said. “It was unbelievably fun to watch.”

After a scoreless first round of the shootout, Kovalev beat
Vancouver Canucks captain Roberto Luongo high to the glove side
to give his squad the edge.

“There’s no way I’m going to miss that one,” the 35-year-old
Russian said.

Thomas forced Nash to shoot wide on the West’s second attempt,
and Ovechkin sealed the win by stuffing a backhander past the
right pad of Luongo following a deke.

“It was good feeling,” Ovechkin said. “I was so happy. I’m
glad I scored.”

Despite suffering the loss, Luongo enjoyed the experience.

“It was an excellent way to finish, coming out (in the shootout)
against those guys, especially Ovechkin,” the native of Montreal
said. “I thought I had him, but it took a lucky bounce on me.
But what are you going to do? It’s for fun.”

While Kovalev emerged as the hero, another Canadien nearly
became a goat.

Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek, one of four Canadiens voted
to the East’s starting lineup, was whistled for hooking Ryan
Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks during a breakaway at 2:22 of
overtime. It was the first penalty called in an All-Star Game
since 2000, when Sandis Ozolinsh received the dubious honor by
earning a hooking infraction at 5:51 of the third period.

“I was shaking my head there. I was in awe,” Komisarek said of
being penalized. “But I had full confidence in the
penalty-killing unit.”

The East, in fact, was able to successfully kill the ensuing
power play, with Thomas making two of his three saves in the
extra session while shorthanded. The veteran’s best stop came
prior to the penalty, however, as he stuck out his right pad to
deny Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla from alone on the left
side of the net with 3:39 remaining.

Kovalev almost ended the game in the first minute of overtime,
but his shot at the 42-second mark rang off the left goalpost.

The teams fell well short of the All-Star record of 10 total
goals in one period, last accomplished in the second session of
the 1997 event, but the West got things started early as Keith
Tkachuk of the St. Louis Blues scored just 76 seconds into the

From along the end line on the right side of the net, Nash
dished the puck to Tkachuk, who easily tapped it past Montreal
goaltender Carey Price for a 1-0 lead.

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Just over five minutes later, the East pulled even thanks to

Fresh off his victory in the Breakaway Challenge during
Saturday’s SuperSkills competition, the Russian superstar fired
a shot past Anaheim netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere from the
right hash marks at 6:26 after receiving a return feed from
below the right faceoff circle by Savard.

The MVP of the 2008 All-Star Game, Eric Staal of the Carolina
Hurricanes put the East ahead 9 1/2 minutes into the opening
period with a backhander before the hometown stars took over.

Kovalev netted his first goal with 3:26 remaining, beating
Giguere to the glove side with a wrist shot during a breakaway
chance. Less than three minutes later, Montreal defenseman
Andrei Markov converted a pass from Ovechkin from the doorstep
for a 4-1 bulge.

“Obviously having this event here in Montreal, it’s just a great
weekend for everybody,” said Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, who
served as the assistant to Bruins coach Claude Julien for the
East. “For Alex, Mike Komisarek, Andrei Markov, Carey Price and
myself, we couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Marleau closed the scoring in the first with 12 seconds to go,
firing the puck between Price’s pads from the right circle.

The clubs equaled the single-period mark for tallies in the
second, with the West netting six to forge an 8-8 tie after 40

St. Louis, a late addition to the East’s roster for injured
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, failed to corral a
breakout pass from Kaberle at the blue line but chased down the
puck in the right corner. After skating behind the net, St.
Louis put a backhander past Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas
Backstrom from the left side just 81 seconds into the period,
giving the East a 5-2 cushion.

Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils lifted the puck over a
sprawled Backstrom 50 seconds later, but Souray and Boyle scored
1:45 apart to draw the West within 6-4.

“You obviously try to score goals,” Boyle said. “This game is
more about no one wanting to see a 2-1 game. Maybe they do, I
don’t know, but as players, you want to get involved
offensively. That’s why the score was so high.”

Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin, who leads the NHL in scoring
with 70 points, used a nifty move to push the East’s lead to
three. After picking up a loose puck in the left circle, the
22-year-old Russian – who won the Accuracy Shooting event on
Saturday – put his stick between his legs and beat Backstrom at

After beginning his hat trick in last year’s event with a
breakaway goal 12 seconds into the first period, Nash ignited a
three-goal burst by the West in similar fashion at 8:27, lifting
a backhander over the glove of New York Rangers netminder Henrik

Hejduk cut the deficit to 7-6 just 35 seconds later, and Souray
netted his second goal of the game with 9:26 left to forge a

Kovalev regained the lead for the East with 6:25 remaining,
stealing the puck from Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer at
his own blue line and racing in on a breakaway before lifting a
backhander past Backstrom.

“We tried to make it as exciting as possible,” Kovalev said.
“Nobody thought in the beginning that it would be high-scoring,
but we put on quite a show.”

But Iginla beat Lundqvist between the pads from the low slot
with 3:14 to go, sending the contest into the third tied at 8-8.

Doan, who outlasted Savard to win Saturday’s Elimination
Shootout, scored 32 seconds into the third, but Dany Heatley of
the Ottawa Senators – the MVP of the 2003 All-Star Game –
knotted the game at 2:17, beating Luongo from alone in front.

Jonathan Toews, the 20-year-old captain of the Blackhawks, beat
Thomas high to the glove side from low in the right circle just
15 later to give the West a 10-9 edge.

“It was fun to go out there and show what I can do and
contribute a little bit,” said Toews, who was voted into the
starting lineup for the West. “It was fun to score a goal and
make plays around the offensive net. Since I was a young guy, I
was trying to prove that I belong and can hang with the big
boys, and I had a lot of fun doing it.”

But St. Louis used Souray as a screen to sneak a shot from the
left circle inside the right goalpost with 6:41 remaining to
again draw the East even.

Kane put the West ahead, 11-10, by sliding the puck under Thomas
during a breakaway with 4:42 left, but Bouwmeester scored on a
wrister from the high slot 63 seconds later to again deadlock
the game.

Souray was impressed with the style of play in the latter stages
of the contest.

“Guys were trying a little harder, there was a little contact
and guys were wanting to win,” he said. “I think at that point,
your competitive juices take over. You want to put on a good
show and everything, but you also want to win, and I think the
guys did a great job battling and having fun and putting on a
good show for the fans.”

Price made nine saves in the first period and Lundqvist stopped
15 shots in the second for the East. Giguere turned aside seven
shots in the opening session, Backstrom made 17 saves in the
second and Luongo finished with 13 stops for the West as the
teams combined for 102 shots – tying the record, which only has
been kept since 1955, initially set in 1994.