|Marc Savard made his inaugural All-Star appearance in Atlanta, where his NHL career began. Marc Savard video highlights|
Savard, who spent three seasons with the Thrashers before signing a free-agent contract with the Bruins in July 2006, still has many acquaintances in Atlanta. And having an opportunity to play in the city where his career began to flourish and make his inaugural All-Star appearance was sure to be something special.
As it turned out, Savard couldn’t have scripted a better ending.
The 5-foot-10, 155-pound playmaker made certain of that when he gathered a pass from Buffalo’s Brian Campbell in the slot and snapped a shot high into the left corner of the net with just 21 seconds on the clock to send his Eastern Conference team to a memorable 8-7 victory against the Western Conference before 18,644 jubilant fans.
"I guess I didn’t get a shot on net the entire game until that last one, so I went to the slot thinking I could create a chance and Campbell made a great pass,’’ Savard said. "I really didn’t call the shot. It was kind of like a saucer pass up top. It was nice to hear the roar of the crowd, especially after they had been booing me all weekend in my return.’’
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Savard also noted the pleasant surprise that equipment manager Joe Guilmet had presented him when he entered the Thrashers dressing room, which served as the home of the Eastern All-Stars throughout the weekend.
"I walked into the room, made a right and there it was,’’ Savard said with a smile. "He had the locker waiting for me, so it was really nice. I had a feeling he would set me up and we both got a good laugh about it.
“I’m not sure where that goal is going to rank in my career, but it’s got to be right up there because we were having so much fun and to score the winner in a game like that was pretty neat. This was a weekend I’ll never forget.’’Savard felt the final five minutes of the contest were as intense as any tight game.
"It’s as if grown men turn into kids again,’’ he said. "You don’t want to lose and we were skating hard and wanting to win. Even though we were having fun, everyone on that bench wanted to win it, deep down.’’
Thrashers coach Don Waddell thought the finish was appropriate.
"I told Marc that it was ironic he would score the game-winner here in Atlanta,’’ Waddell said. "He made a good play to finish it off and it was the ending to a good weekend here and a good story for everybody to write about. His putting in the winner put the cherry on top of the cake. It was a great show for the fans of Atlanta and the NHL.
"Marc was a good player and a great person and it didn’t surprise me one bit that Joe set him up at his old stall because that’s the way hockey is today. We lost Marc to free agency and that happens, but there are certainly no hard feelings, that’s for sure.’’
Guilmet, who has been with the team since the 1999-2000 season, knew Savard would appreciate his old spot.
"I knew that, Marc being Marc, he would come in and laugh but really appreciate it,’’ he said. "He was always a good guy and we do miss him here.’’
Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who was making his third All-Star appearance, had a hunch Savard would stir up some magic in the end.
"I knew he would take a chance and once I saw him in the slot, I knew he’d get it,’’ Chara said."I was really happy for him. It’s nice to see him get his name on the board and I know it was extra special to do it in Atlanta. Marc has always been a great two-way player and the fact he can consistently play well against the other top lines in this League is proof of that.’’
For the season, Savard leads the Bruins with 56 points in 48 games and ranks second in the NHL with 44 assists. He has recorded 187 assists since the start of the 2005-06 season, which is third among NHL players, behind San Jose’s Joe Thornton (233) and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (190).
"It was nice that three Bruins shared the spotlight tonight,’’ Savard said, also referencing Tim Thomas (18 saves in the third period) and Chara. "Tim and Zdeno played well and it was nice having (All Star MVP) Eric Staal on one side and Ilya Kovalchuk on the other. I wish I could have helped Ilya get a goal in front of his fans, but (West goalie) Evgeni (Nabokov) really came up big in the second period.’’
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org