MONTREAL – Boston Bruins rookie Blake Wheeler didn’t know what all-star weekend would be like when Air Canada lost his sticks on the trip to Montreal this week.
He thought he’d have to borrow some from another player, but the sticks arrived Saturday in plenty of time for the big winger to score four goals and take MVP honours as the Rookies defeated the Sophomores 9-5 in the NHL YoungStars game.
“Air Canada said they’d call when they found them, but they never called – then they magically arrived,” said Wheeler.
Like every player at the all-star game from the Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, long-standing rivals of the Montreal Canadiens, Wheeler was booed by the 21,273 at the Bell Centre each time he played the puck, but he just soaked it in.
“It’s a great thing to have that rivalry for the fans to show their passion and feelings for our team,” said Wheeler, whose teammates Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas and Marc Savard will play in the main all-star game on Sunday. “It’s great for the sport.”
Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning had two goals while Luke Schenn of the Leafs, Patrik Berglund of the St. Louis Blues and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles kings also scored for the Rookies.
Defenceman Marc Staal of the New York Rangers had two goals while Dave Bolland of the Chicago Blackhawks, Mason Raymond of the Vancouver Canucks and Devin Setoguchi of the San Jose Sharks scored for the Sophomores.
The teams played three six-minute periods with three skaters and a goalie each on the ice at a time in a game that featured lots of breakaways and clever passing, but almost no intensity.
Still, the crowd seemed to enjoy the spectacle that also featured Luc Robitaille coaching the Rookies and former Canadiens star Pete Mahovlich behind the bench for the Sophomores.
A highlight was Staal’s first goal 1:43 into the second period when he threw the only hit of the game on James Neal of the Dallas Stars, then took the puck and went in and scored.
Another was Schenn’s goal, as the Leafs defenceman was booed all the way in on a breakaway and then scored on Montreal’s Carey Price at 4:08 of the second frame. Price allowed nine goals on only 25 shots.
Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators stood tall in goal for the Rookies, stopping 19 of 24 shots, which likely decided the game for the first-year players.
Last year’s Youngstars game MVP, Brandon Dubinsky of the Rangers, and Andrew Cogliano of the Edmonton Oilers, who won the fastest skater event in the Skills competition, failed to score for the Sophomores.