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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

Sunday.

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

tallies.

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

life."

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

game.

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.

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

Ovechkin.

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

minutes.

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

7:45.

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

Lundqvist.

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

tie.

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.

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