Sunday, January 30, 2011

Team Lidstrom tops Team Staal in NHL All-Star Game

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Dallas Stars forward Loui Eriksson tallied two goals -- including the  game-winner late in regulation -- along with two assists as Team Lidstrom lipped Team Staal, 11-10, in the 58th NHL All-Star Game from RBC Center.

In a break from the usual pairings based on geography or place of berth, the NHL showcase for the 2011 season featured two squads, with previously-chosen captains, picking the remaining All-Stars one after the other. Called the fantasy draft, it took place on Friday night.

Danny  Briere and  Anze Kopitar  also scored  twice for  the Lidstroms,  which fell  behind by  four goals  in  the game's  first six  minutes, then  rallied in the third period for the victory.

"We started to think 'Geez, we hope this won't continue after they got the first four goals,'" said winning captain Nicklas Lidstrom, a veteran defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings. "But after we got our first goal, we started playing better. It wasn't the start we wanted but it definitely was the end we wanted."

Shea  Weber posted  a  game-high four  assists while  Jonathan  Toews added  a goal   and   two  helpers,  with   Matt  Duchene,  Martin  St.  Louis,  Dustin Byfuglien and Steven Stamkos all lighting the lamp once.

Tim  Thomas earned his third win in three All-Star appearances by limiting the opposition to four goals on 15 shots in the final 20 minutes.

Eric  Staal delighted his home fans with a pair of scores and Kris Letang also notched  two goals for  the Staals, which also received a goal and two assists from game MVP Patrick Sharp.

"It was awesome, a lot of fun," Staal of the Hurricanes said. "We came up a little bit short but it was a good game overall. It was great to be out there with the guys on our side."

Claude  Giroux  picked up  three points  on a  goal and  two assists, and Alex Ovechkin added a goal and a helper in defeat.

Henrik  Lundqvist was  saddled with the loss despite yielding only three goals on 14 shots in the third period.

Letang  eventually  snapped a  deadlock at  8:46 of the  third period and Team Staal  regained the lead at 8-7, but Briere beat Thomas just before the midway point and 48 seconds later, Toews made it 9-8 for Team Lidstrom.

"Those first two shifts were kinda weird," Briere admitted. "You just don't know how guys are gonna play, how hard you can go, what kind of defense they're gonna play. We needed a couple shifts to adapt."

St.  Louis then moved down the right wing, cut to the net and managed to sneak a  backhander  home off the  rush with 6:07 left  in regulation for a two-goal margin.

Rick  Nash converted  a Corey  Perry pass  just over  a minute  later for  yet another  one-goal difference,  and after  Lundqvist  was pulled  for an  extra skater, Eriksson hit the empty net.

The  home captain  wasn't through, and Staal notched his second of the contest with  33.6 seconds  remaining to bring his side within 11-10, but an equalizer did not amterialize despite pressure on Thomas.

The  two-year gap in competition due to the 2010 Winter Games wasn't a factor, as  Ovechkin tallied  for Team Staal against Marc-Andre Fleury just 50 seconds after  the opening faceoff.  It was 2-0 at 2:48 when Paul Stastny redirected a Sharp feed during a 2-on-1 break.

Patrik  Elias  tripled the advantage 32  seconds later by one-timing a Stastny dish, then Sharp set up a Giroux backhander for a 4-0 game at 5:41.

Kopitar  put Team Lidstrom on the board with 9:10 left in the first on a nifty rising backhander over Cam Ward's glove and Byfuglien converted a Patrick Kane pass at the left post at 13:17.

Eriksson shot one off Ward's glove less than three minutes later, then Duchene scored on a break 23 seconds later for a 4-4 tie.

Jonas  Hiller  was welcomed to  action when Sharp scored  off a Giroux pass at 1:18  of the  second period  and Team  Staal led  5-4, and  Letang ripped  one home at 6:10 for a two-goal edge.

Kopitar's  two-man breakaway goal was the first goal allowed by Carey Price at 10:08,  then  Stamkos tied  the game with  5:49 left in  the second and Briere followed to put Team Lidstrom up 7-6 only 81 seconds after.

Staal  slipped a  shot between Thomas' pads  for a 7-7 contest with just under four  minutes played in the third, and the scorefest took a short pause almost 2 1/2 minutes later.

Ovechkin  threw his stick to foil a Duchene breakout at the 6:13 mark, and the young  Avs  forward was awarded a  penalty shot. Lundqvist followed him to the right post and smothered the shot with his pad.

"Well yeah, it was just (in) fun...I just didn't want him to score it alone so it was just a good moment," Ovechkin said in his own defense."

Notes: The  21  total goals  ranks fourth  all-time in  NHL mid-season contests, with North  America's  14-12 win over the  World in 2001 ranking first...The East's 12-11  win in 2009 is second, while a 16-6 Campbell decision over the Wales in 1993  holds third place...Team Staal won the skills competition on Saturday by a  33-22  count...The East topped the  West by a  12-11 score two years ago in
Montreal...Sharp  became  the first  Chicago Blackhawks player  to be named an All-Star  MVP since Eric Daze in 2002 at Los Angeles...Bobby Hull won back-to-back  MVP  honors in  1970-71 for  the 'Hawks...Martin  Havlat picked up three assists  for Team  Lidstrom, while Elias, Stastny and Nash recorded a goal and assist   each   for   Team   Staal...The  2012   All-Star   Game   is   slated for Ottawa's Scotiabank Place.

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