MONTREAL – The home of hockey produced an All-Star shootout from start to finish. All that was missing was Rocket Richard.
In the city where the NHL was born 92 years earlier, with the All-Star game as the backdrop, Alex Kovalev gave Montreal and Canadiens fans something new to cheer about in the 100th season of the league’s most storied franchise.
Kovalev, the Canadiens’ biggest current star, scored two breakaway goals and then scored in the shootout to help give the Eastern Conference All-Stars a wild 12-11 victory over the West on Sunday night.
“You can’t ask for a better package than this,” said Kovalev, the East captain who had three points and skated off with MVP honors. “Get voted in the All-Star game by the fans, starting lineup, being the captain, get MVP. This is something to remember the rest of your life.”
It was the second-highest-scoring game in All-Star history and the fifth decided after regulation.
“The last 5 minutes and going into the overtime you could tell neither team wanted to lose. It certainly picked up at the end there,” said West defenseman Dan Boyle, one of 28 players with a point. “I’ve seen some of the games in the past, and I didn’t think this one was too bad.”
On a night filled with pageantry, there were the traditional breakaways and the usual absence of defense. What made this All-Star game different was the presence and reverence for the players of long ago.
Several times, faceoffs were delayed as Hall of Fame Canadiens such as Henri Richard – the brother of the late Maurice “Rocket” Richard – Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer stepped out of the tunnel and waved to the crowd as part of the season-long celebration of the Canadiens’ special anniversary.
While fans cheered, players showed their appreciation with on-ice stick tapping. Even linesman Pierre Racicot, a native of the Montreal area, tucked the puck away so he could clap for the Canadiens heroes, too.
“It was awesome,” said Jonathan Toews, one of Chicago’s two 20-year-old All-Stars. “The fans were so involved with everything that was happening on the ice.
“It was just a perfect ending to a perfect weekend.”
Alex Ovechkin sealed the East’s victory with a goal in the third round of the shootout. It capped off the busiest of nights for the NHL’s reigning regular-season MVP, who also had a goal and two assists.
The biggest cheer of the night went to Kovalev, who scored on the second shootout shot against Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo.
For the first time since shootouts were implemented by the NHL to eliminate ties after the 2004-05 lockout, an All-Star game was decided by penalty shots. A shootout also settled the West’s 6-5 win over the East in 2003.
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