Wayne Simmonds leads Metro over Pacific for All-Star title

By Dennis Bernstein, The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 30, 2017 at 7:20 AM
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LOS ANGELES -- Returning to the city where he started his NHL career, Philadelphia Flyers right winger Wayne Simmonds was looking forward to his first All-Star Game, and his performance won the day as well as a Most Valuable Player Award.

Simmonds and Columbus Blue Jackets right winger Cam Atkinson scored goals five seconds apart as the Metropolitan Division defeated the Pacific Division 4-3 to win the All-Star Game at Staples Center on Sunday.

In the semifinals, the Pacific Division beat the Central Division 10-3, and the Metropolitan Division beat the Atlantic Division 10-6.

Simmonds' clutch performance in the two Pacific victories earned him the MVP nod in his first All-Star appearance. He spoke earlier in the week about how special it was to make the appearance in Los Angeles, where he played his first three seasons of his NHL career.

The Kings drafted Simmonds in 2007, then traded him to Flyers as part of Mike Richards deal in the summer of 2011.

"You know, it meant a lot. I haven't been here for six years," Simmonds said. "I don't even realize what is happening right now. I brought some family members with me this weekend, so I'm glad they could enjoy it with me."

Though his team lost in the Final, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler summed up the feeling of the experience of All-Star weekend.

"Getting to spend time with the greatest players in the world, and having family and friends here, is something I'll remember for a long time," Fowler said.

After an apparent goal by Anaheim's Ryan Kesler was ruled offside by a challenge by Metropolitan coach Wayne Gretzky, Atkinson knotted the game at 3-3 on a breakaway goal at 14:57 of the 20-minute mini-game. Simmonds added his goal immediately after the faceoff.

Columbus defenseman Seth Jones and Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk added goals for the winners, who split the $1 million bonus prize among the 11 roster players. Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby stopped all five shots he faced in 10 minutes to earn the win.

The Pacific received goals from San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat. Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith stopped nice of 11 shots.

The Kings' All-Stars helped stake the Pacific Division to an early big lead in the first semifinal.

Hometown representatives Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty each registered a goal and two assists. Fowler led all scorers with a goal and three assists, while Kesler, Pavelski and San Jose defenseman Brent Burns added goals.

McDavid, the NHL's leading scorer, registered his first NHL All-Star goal as every Pacific skater hit the score sheet. The Pacific outshot the Central 22-10, and Smith made nine saves for the victory.

The Central received goals from Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban and St. Louis Blues right winger Vladimir Tarasenko, while Chicago goalie Corey Crawford stopped 12 shots.

The Metropolitan Division got three goals in the space of 19 seconds during the second period in defeating the Atlantic in the second semifinal. New York Islanders center John Tavares, Jones and New Jersey Devils left winger Taylor Hall lit the lamp consecutively for the decisive goals.

Tavares, Simmonds and Atkinson each registered two goals, while Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Washington left winger Alexander Ovechkin added a marker. Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky stopped seven of 10 shots for the win.

The Atlantic received two goals from Tampa Bay Lightning right winger Nikita Kucherov and one goal apiece from Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, Florida Panthers center Vincent Trocheck and last year's first overall draft pick, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews. The Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask was the losing goalie, stopping eight of 14 shots.

NOTES:

-- For the second consecutive year, All-Star Game featured a three-on-three tournament pitting each division against each other for a winner-take-all $1 million prize.

-- Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky replaced Columbus' John Tortorella as coach of the Metropolitan Division team. Tortorella skipped the event to attend to a family matter. Gretzky coached the Phoenix Coyotes from 2006 to 2009.

-- Sunday marked the third time NHL All-Star activities took place in Los Angeles. The Kings previously hosted the event in 1981 and 2002.

-- The NHL takes Monday off but is back in action Tuesday with 14 games on the slate, with only the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks not scheduled.

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