Atlantic defeats Pacific in NHL All-Star Skills Competition

By Dennis Bernstein, The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 29, 2017 at 8:52 AM
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LOS ANGELES -- In the entertainment capital of the world, the NHL had center stage in showing off the league's elite.

In a night that started with an intro from music icon Snoop Dogg and ended with a nine-round shootout, the fans got to see the best hockey has to offer.

The Atlantic Division defeated the Pacific Division 9-7 in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday.

In the final event determining the matchups for Sunday's All-Star Game, nine skaters and two goaltenders from the Pacific and the Atlantic faced off in the shootout.

The Atlantic won the round 4-1 on goals by Boston's Brad Marchand, Montreal's Shea Weber and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby (worth two points) to earn the right to play the Metropolitan Division in the second game of the semifinal matchups.

Crosby plays in the Metropolitan, but was selected by a fan vote to shoot the Discover puck -- a sponsor of the event -- during the shootout.

"No matter how many times you get selected for All Star weekend, it's both fun and an honor to play," Washington's Alexander Ovechkin said.

The shootout round proved more entertaining when Anaheim's Ryan Kesler substituted his son, six-year-old Ryker, in his place against Montreal's Carey Price. The younger Kesler strode in an beat Price between his legs for one of the loudest ovations of the evening.

"I saw we were facing Price and I thought he had a better shot," the senior Kesler joked. "To hear the crowd's reaction was pretty special. As a father it's probably one of the proudest moments I've had."

San Jose's Brent Burns, the leading candidate for the Norris Trophy. was playful when asked about the numerous rounds of boos he heard from the fans who were mostly backers of their arch rival, the Los Angeles Kings.

"I felt the love from the L.A. crowd, it was great," Burns chuckled.

In the preliminary round, the Pacific defeated the Central Division 6-3 and the Atlantic defeated the Metropolitan 6-5 on a tiebreaker points based on Weber's hardest shot win.

Weber defended his hardest shot title by registering 102.8 miles an hour while defeating Ovechkin to earn two points for the Atlantic. Los Angeles' Drew Doughty, Winnipeg's Patrik Laine and Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman earned a point in the other rounds.

Edmonton's Connor McDavid earned two points for the Pacific by posting the best time -- 13.020 seconds, in the fastest skater competition.

Other winners in the round were Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov, Florida's Vincent Trocheck and Winnipeg's Patrik Laine, earning two points for the Atlantic and one for the Central.

ln the accuracy shooting featuring two rounds of Atlantic versus Metropolitan and Central versus Pacific, Crosby posted the fastest time en route to defeat Toronto's Auston Matthews to earn two points for the Metropolitan. The other round saw Buffalo's Kyle Okposo defeat the New York Islanders' John Tavares to earn a point for the Atlantic. The Pacific swept two points from the Central as McDavid defeated Laine and Los Angeles' Jeff Carter bested Chicago's Patrick Kane.

A new event, the four line challenge was contested next, involving four shooters from each team. Each shooter shot from one of four shooting positions -- near blue line, center line, far blue line and far goal line. Goaltender Mike Smith of Arizona clinched the victory for the Pacific by converting a length of the ice shot, earning his team the one point up for grabs.

The Metropolitan defeated the Atlantic and earned two points by posting the fastest overall time in the skills relay challenge. The Central earned a point by defeating the Pacific in the other heat.

The timed relay event -- involving seven skaters and one goalie from each team -- consisted of four relays with five challenges each: one-timers, passing, puck control, stick-handling and goalie goals.

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