LAS VEGAS -- The best was saved for last at Wednesday night's 2011 NHL Awards at the Pearl Theater in the Palms Casino.
In a night filled with star power and feel-good moments, Anaheim forward Corey Perry stole the show with his surprise victory against Vancouver's Daniel Sedin in the Hart Trophy race. The Hart was the last of the trophies announced during the two-hour ceremony, hosted by comedian Jay Mohr and featuring a bevy of entertainment and hockey luminaries as presenters.
After he was announced as the winner, Perry showed the most emotion of the night, flirting with tears on more than one occasion during a short, but heartfelt, acceptance speech.
"You didn't know what to expect coming in and all of the sudden you hear your name and it's -- it surprised me," said Perry, who also won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the League's top goal-scorer.
Winning the Hart also surprised Perry's family and friends in the audience. His mom, Nancy, was shown crying in the stands as Perry took the stage to accept the MVP Award.
That display of raw emotion was the tripping point for Perry, who said he had more than 30 people in the audience, including his brother, grandmother and several teammates from his junior hockey days.
"I'm an emotional person, and it's like going back to when we won the Stanley Cup (in 2007), I cried after that, you know, it's just personal," he said. "I knew what I wanted to say and what I wanted to get across, and hopefully it came out all right."
Perry used a historic finishing kick – 19 goals in Anaheim's final 16 games of the season to reach the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career -- to unseat Vancouver's Daniel Sedin, who earlier in the show had been given the Ted Lindsay Award, the players' MVP award, and the Art Ross Trophy as the League's top point-getter.
Certainly, losing the Hart Trophy was a disappointment for Sedin -- but it was not even close to the disappointment of losing the Stanley Cup in a Game 7, a wound that is exactly one week old now.
But for the Canucks, Wednesday was about continuing the healing process as Vancouver personnel took home five awards on the night.
Sedin claimed the Lindsay and the Art Ross, Ryan Kesler won the Selke Trophy as the League's best defensive forward, the goalie tandem of Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider received the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals during the regular season and general manager Mike Gillis was named General Manager of the Year for his role in building the team that won the Presidents' Trophy.
"It's great, I guess," Gillis said. "It's nice, I appreciate it but I would trade it in anytime for a Stanley Cup."
Instead, he had to watch Wednesday as two of the key players in Boston's run to the Stanley Cup added to their collection of individual awards.
As expected, Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy as the League's best goalie after a dominant regular season that saw him set the mark for the best save percentage in League history. He beat out Luongo and Nashville's Pekka Rinne for the award, which he also won two years ago.
Zdeno Chara lost out on the Norris Trophy in the closest race in the 57-year history of the award for the League's top defenseman, but won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, presented by Bridgestone.
"To be selected by somebody like Mark is an honor," Chara said. "You have to be a true leader and it doesn't happen overnight, and for myself coming to Boston was great and I'm lucky to be surrounded by other players and I learned from veterans from previous years, and early in my career; but it just takes time."
Chara's loss was the gain of Nicklas Lidstrom, who won the Norris for a seventh time, edging Nashville's Shea Weber by just nine points. Chara finished just 48 points behind.
NHL legend Bobby Orr has eight Norris Trophies and is the only player with more than the seven owned by the 41-year-old Lidstrom. Hall of Famer Doug Harvey also has seven Norris wins.
"It is very humbling, especially reaching those two players that are up there in the tops of getting the Norris," Lidstrom said. "I'm very honored and very proud to reach that level."
In another highly followed – and extremely tight -- race, Carolina's Jeff Skinner, won the Calder Trophy as the League's best rookie. Skinner, just 18, received 94 of 127 first-place votes and 1,055 points after his 61-point season to edge San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture, who was named first on 41 ballots and polled 908 points. The margin of victory was the smallest in Calder Trophy voting since St. Louis Blues defenseman Barret Jackman topped Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg 506-462 in 2003.
Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma won the Jack Adams Award as "the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success," as selected by the NHL Broadcasters' Association. Bylsma, who led the Penguins to a 106-point season despite missing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for multiple months, edged Vancouver's Alain Vigneault by just 17 points.
Tampa Bay forward Martin St. Louis took home his second consecutive Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded "to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."
St. Louis was a runaway winner for the second consecutive season, earning 70 first-place votes.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Ian Laperriere was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."
Laperriere sustained a severe injury during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs when he blocked a shot with his face against New Jersey and suffered a concussion and fractured orbital bone. He returned a little more than a month later to finish the Flyers' playoff run that ended two games short of a championship. Laperriere could not return this season because of concussion-related symptoms.
"That's the way I play, that's the way I am and I'm proud of the way I play every single game and I said before it took me 16 years to get a puck in the face and just so happened I took two that year," Laperriere said. "I don't regret anything and it's too bad that I have symptoms from it but I wouldn't change anything."
New York Islanders center Doug Weight was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded "to the player who best exemplifies leadership on and off the ice and who has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community."
In the same charitable vein, the National Hockey League Foundation named Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown as the recipient of the 13th annual NHL Foundation Player Award. This award recognizes an NHL player who applies the core values of hockey – commitment, perseverance and teamwork – to enrich the lives of people in his community.
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