OTTAWA – Marian Gaborik got the best of New York Rangers teammate Henrik Lundqvist, and Zdeno Chara scored the winning goal for the NHL All-Star team named after him.
Even in defeat, Daniel Alfredsson rewarded the hometown fans with two goals and an assist, and then the Ottawa Senators captain provided a hint that he might come back for one more season.
For an All-Star game that lacked the league’s top-name talent in Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, there was plenty to keep everyone buzzing on Sunday.
Gaborik scored three times, added an assist and earned MVP honors, and Team Chara used a third-period offensive eruption to secure a 12-9 win over Team Alfredsson.
“We have a lot of fun out there,” said Lundqvist, who allowed three goals on 12 shots in the first period. “A lot of times you might forget because it’s a lot of pressure, and you put a lot of pressure on yourself, but this weekend is all about the game of hockey and having fun with it. So we’ve been enjoying ourselves, and I hope the fans felt the same way.”
What was not to like?
Fans were treated to a wide-open, no-hitting style in a game that featured plenty of nifty passing plays, numerous odd-man breaks and even a penalty shot awarded to Steven Stamkos, who leads the NHL with 32 goals.
Stamkos, however, was foiled on his freebie – the second in All-Star game history – when he attempted the same spin-around move he used to beat Carey Price in the skills competition on Saturday night. Jimmy Howard didn’t bite on Sunday, holding his ground and hugging the post to stop Stamkos’ penalty-shot attempt.
“I think I ran out of moves,” Stamkos said. “I tried something fancy and hoped it would work. It didn’t. But I just tried to have fun with it.”
Gaborik enjoyed himself the most, earning bragging rights over Lundqvist after the two spent the past few days playfully going back and forth on Twitter. The mock feud was over Lundqvist – Alfredsson’s assistant captain – choosing not to select Gaborik in the All-Star player draft on Thursday.
Gaborik showed just how motivated he was. After opening the scoring 4:34 in on a give-and-go with Pavel Datsyuk, Gaborik circled the net, dropped to one knee and pointed his stick machine-gun style at Lundqvist while pumping his fist.
The move was identical to one done by Rangers forward Artem Anisimov earlier this season when he scored against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This one was all in fun, said Gaborik, the 16th player to score at least three goals – one short of matching the record – in the All-Star game. It was the first All-Star hat trick since Rick Nash had three goals in 2008.
“It’s always tough to score on him,” Gaborik said of Lundqvist. “It’s not easy. I was fortunate to be lucky against him, but I think he’s one of the best if not the best goalie in the league.”
Tim Thomas made 18 saves in the final period, and extended his record by winning his fourth All-Star game.
Hossa and Jarome Iginla had a goal and two assists, and Joffrey Lupul scored twice for Team Chara.
For Team Alfredsson, Henrik Sedin had a goal and two assists, and Daniel Sedin, John Tavares, Jason Pominville and Milan Michalek had a goal and assist each.
The outcome was decided in the final period when Team Chara outscored Team Alfredsson 6-3.
With the game tied at 8, Chara, Marian Hossa and Corey Perry scored in a span of 1:22, beating goalie Brian Elliott on consecutive shots.
Gaborik set up Chara for the decisive goal, flipping the puck into the high slot, where Chara slapped it in.
“I was surprised that I was open, and I just put it on net,” Chara said. “It’s nice to get the win. The fans saw some goals, and then as we were going toward the end, you could see that the guys wanted to win.”
Chara paid respect to Alfredsson, saying he was rooting for his former Senators teammate to complete his hat trick.
“Alfie’s such a classy guy, obviously a big icon in Ottawa and Sweden, as well, and such a great player to represent this team,” Chara said. “So of course I was pulling for him.”
After falling behind 3-0, Team Alfredsson rallied to tie it before the first period ended. But they didn’t get their first – and only lead – until Alfredsson scored twice during a 1:31 span to put his team up 6-5 with just under four minutes left in the second.
His first goal came on a great individual effort in which Alfredsson, dragging the puck behind him, split defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Ryan Suter, and flipped a shot that sneaked inside the right post to beat Price. Alfredsson’s second came on a wonderful passing play courtesy of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, whom Alfredsson was looking forward to playing with when he drafted the twins.
He nearly scored his third goal in the third period, only to have a one-timer from the left circle ring off the post.
But it was after the game when Alfredsson sounded upbeat about his future in an interview broadcast on the arena’s scoreboard.
With a smile on his face, and fans cheering his name, Alfredsson said: “Fifty percent yes, and my wife’s going to have to decide the other 50.”
He has one year left on his contract.
It a game built around offense, the goalies still found ways to have fun with it.
Price allowed three goals on 14 shots, and lamented during the first intermission the lack of defense.
“I feel like being a lamb getting led to slaughter,” Price said. “I must be holding on for the ride today and hope I don’t get lit up too bad.”