MONTREAL -- A shootout to end the shootout.
That was the fitting ending for the 2009 NHL All-Star Game at the Bell Centre on Sunday as All-Star MVP Alex Kovalev of the hometown Montreal Canadiens and Washington's Alex Ovechkin scored against Roberto Luongo in the shootout to give the Eastern Conference a 12-11 victory over the Western Conference.
With four members of the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference's starting lineup, there was a little extra juice to this game, most notably from the fans who cheered their guys loud and long all weekend, with other Quebec natives also feeling the love.
"I don't think it's only now," Kovalev said. "I think they've been like that since I got to Montreal. I don't remember one day that they wouldn't be so passionate and so excited. Just to come to this building and see open practice, whatever it is, or just regular practice, like I said, it's always been so exciting to be on the ice, surrounded by all these fans."
But Kovalev, who won a 2009 Honda Ridgeline as the Honda NHL MVP winner, noted that it was a two-way street with the Montreal contingent of Kovalev, goalie Carey Price and defensemen Mike Komisarek and Andrei Markov, plus Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, looking to put on a good show.
"Before the All-Star Game, before this weekend, I knew how important it would be for all of us, not just for me, to succeed and put on a show and have fun," Kovalev said. "But like I said, you couldn't ask (for) more. When I heard that I'd been named as the captain of the team, you know, I just said to myself 'I have one more left, to get MVP.' I think that's going to be the full package that I'm going to remember the rest of my life."
"It was fun," Carbonneau said. "Obviously, having this event here in Montreal, it's just a great weekend for everybody. You know, for Alex, Mike Komisarek, Andrei Markov, Carey Price and myself, we couldn't ask for anything better. You know, the fans have been here every game and cheering on the players every game. You know, I knew this was not going to be different tonight."
The magic of Montreal rubbed off on all the participants as voiced by Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien, a former Canadiens coach.
"I don't know if I have a specific moment, but I think that this has been an outstanding weekend," Julien said. "You can talk to any player, talk to any coach. The way it's been organized by this organization, the way the people came to Montreal, and the Montreal fans, and the way they've reacted to all of this has just made this whole weekend outstanding.
"I know from the personal side of it, our players really enjoyed it. They had a great weekend. They represented us extremely well. And, again, I think this whole weekend has been a huge success."
On to the nitty gritty of a game that saw 22 goals in regulation play, none in overtime and two in the shootout, not to mention the ragged nerves of the six goaltenders forced to endure the offensive exploits.
The East held a 4-2 lead after one period, but that was erased in a wild second period that saw 10 goals score and an 8-8 tie after 40 minutes. The see-saw third period produced six goals, but no winner. Neither did the 5-minute overtime. So it was on to the shootout, with Roberto Luongo in goal for the West and Tim Thomas manning the nets for the East.
Thomas, who made a couple of spectacular saves in overtime, stopped Shane Doan and Rick Nash in the shootout, while Luongo was not as fortunate.
Kovalev ripped a blistering drive over his glove hand on the East's second attempt for the eventual winner. Alex Ovechkin followed with a dizzying array of moves on the way to his own shootout goal, one that ended the West's hopes.
As you can tell from the score, the goals came at a fast and furious pace, especially in the second. While the third period didn't have the barrage of goals that marked the second, the West-East-West-East rhythm kept the game close and the sellout crowd perched on the edge of their seats.
Doan had staked the West to a 9-8 lead just 32 seconds into the third, but Dany Heatley restored the tie at 2:17. Chicago's Jonathan Toews put the West back on top by a goal, but Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis struck back for a 10-10 tie at 13:19.
It looked like Chicago's Patrick Kane got the winner at 15:18 on a slick breakaway goal, but that hope was dashed by a sharp wrister from Florida's Jay Bouwmeester at 16:21 which sent the game to overtime tied at 11.
When all was said and done, Kovalev and St. Louis had 2 goals and 1 assist each for the East. Marc Savard had 3 assists, Bouwmeester 1 goal and 2 assists, the same total as Ovechkin. Mark Streit and Tomas Kaberle each had 2 assists.
For the Western Conference, Sheldon Souray had 2 goals and 1 assist, Joe Thornton had 3 assists, Milan Hejduk, Patrick Marleau and Rick Nash each had 1 goal and 2 assists, while Doan, Dan Boyle and Kane each scored 1 goal and 1 assist.
In case you weren't convinced that no lead is safe in the All-Star Game, we present the second period, where a two-goal East lead built in Period 1 disappeared in a hurry en route to an 8-8 tie after 40 minutes.
The goals came at a fast and furious pace against the unfortunate Henrik Lundqvist and Niklas Backstrom, who aren't likely to look back at this All-Star experience with terribly fond memories, with Lundqvist surrendering six goals and Backstrom four.
For those scoring at home, the avalanche of goals went as follows.
St. Louis made it 5-2 for the East at 1:21 with a whirling backhander off a Kaberle pass. New Jersey's Zach Parise made it 6-2 at 2:11 off assists from St. Louis and Streit. Four-goal lead seems safe, right?
Yeah … no way. Souray got one back at 3:29 and Boyle netted his first at 5:14 and it was a 6-4 lead for the East before Evgeni Malkin made it 7-4 at 7:45 of the middle period.
That lead disappeared in a hurry too when Nash scored on a breakaway at 8:27 and then Hejduk scored off a slick pass from Boyle at 9:02 to bring the West within one, 7-6, at 9:02.
Souray's second goal of the period forged a 7-7 tie at 10:34 when he pulled up on a slap shot and beat Lundqvist from the left circle, using East defenseman Komisarek as a screen.
Are we done yet?
Kovalev restored the East lead with a backhander at 3:36, but Calgary's Jarome Iginla scored the first All-Star goal of his career at 16:46 to retie the game at 8-8.
For some time, it seemed like the goalies would get off easy in the first period, despite the fact the Western Conference scored at 1:16 of the game. Still, it was just 3-1 for the East into the final minute of the first before the two squads swapped goals to make the score a more All-Star-like 4-2 after 20 minutes.
The offensive skills on display in this All-Star Game seemed especially daunting for those trying to keep the puck out of the next. The slick moves, tape-to-tape passes and creative moves really put a premium on talent in a big way.
St. Louis' Keith Tkachuk came away with the game's first goal just 1:16 in, camping in front of Price and banging home a behind-the-net pass from Nash. Hejduk also assisted on the goal.
Ovechkin and Savard used the old give-and-go to tie the game at 6:26, with Ovechkin feeding Savard in the right corner and then burying the return pass against Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Carolina's Eric Staal took advantage of a carom off the skate of Boyle to give the East a 2-1 edge at 9:30, backhanding the shot past Giguere with Bouwmeester and Kovalev picking up assists.
Kaberle had earned boos during All-Star Weekend for being a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he figured out a pretty good way to earn some cheers when his long breakout pass sprung hometown favorite Kovalev for a breakaway that saw the slick veteran use an off-speed shot to fool Giguere and make it 3-1 at 16:34.
Savard and Ovechkin got into the action at 19:23, using hard, pinpoint passes to set Markov up for an easy goal in front of the West's net. A turnover in the defensive zone cost the East, however, as Thornton set up teammate Marleau for a drive from the right faceoff dot that caught Price off guard at 19:48 to make it 4-2.