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AO's shtick takes Breakaway Challenge

Sunday, 01.25.2009 / 12:01 AM / 2009 NHL All-Star Game

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

MONTREAL -- Alex Ovechkin has once again set the bar higher than anyone could have predicted.

Using props this year, Ovechkin won the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge on Saturday night by receiving more than 42 percent of the vote from the fans (and players) who texted in their choices.

"It's fun for the fans to see who we are and how we are," Ovechkin said.

Ovechkin enlisted fellow Russian and former rival Evgeni Malkin as his assistant to help him get dressed for his final shootout attempt.

He first put on a fisherman's hat that was purchased by his business manager, Konstantin Selinevich. He then threw on a pair of white-rimmed sunglasses, and Malkin took out a towel to wipe the lenses. The Penguins' star then poured some Gatorade in Ovechkin's mouth to get him some electrolytes for the big performance.

The Capitals' No. 8 grabbed Malkin's stick and used both to stickhandle the puck down the middle. He tossed away the extra stick and tried to go five-hole on goalie Jason Maggio. The puck hit Maggio's stick, but Ovechkin poked in the rebound before raising his arms and throwing the props into the crowd.

It was a pro wrestler's routine on ice, and nobody could have done it better.

"He's such an entertainer, and he's so good for the League," Chicago's Patrick Kane, who finished fifth with 6.8 percent of the votes cast, told NHL.com. "When you see a guy like that do what he did, that's why he's the face of the NHL. I don't think you're going to remember any move that he did, but you will remember what he did."

Ovechkin said he thought of his routine Friday night, but waited until he got to the bench Saturday to enlist Malkin. The two have apparently put aside any differences they may have had this weekend and have become friends again.

"We've talked before. Now we talk too much," Malkin told NHL.com. "Yeah, now we are good friends."

The rest of the All-Stars here Saturday night weren't just spectators for the Breakaway Challenge. They had to be alert and watch every move because every single one of them had to cast a vote as well.

The NHL put Blackberrys in the locker stalls, and once the Challenge was over and the YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck began, the players came back into the dressing room to text in their vote. After they voted, they signed the Blackberrys and the PDAs were put up for auction.

Zach Parise, who sat next to Ovechkin in the East's room, said he voted for No. 8, choosing performance over move.

"(Martin) St. Louis might have had the best moves, but Ovechkin put on the best show," the Devils' sniper told NHL.com.

Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Savard echoed Parise's thoughts. They each voted for Ovechkin, but thought Getzlaf's move when he took the puck behind the net, put it in his stick blade and wrapped it into the top right corner was the best move of the event.

Getzlaf finished fourth with 11.5 percent of the votes.

"I liked Getzlaf's move behind the net, but I went with Ovechkin," the Bruins' center told NHL.com. "That was funny. He loves the camera, that's for sure. And it's good to see. It's great for hockey. It really does take someone special to pull it off."

Kovalchuk, who sat on Ovechkin's other side, also voted for the Capitals' superstar and told NHL.com that nothing No. 8 does surprises him anymore.

"He always does some crazy stuff," said Kovalchuk, who admitted he thought St. Louis had the best move. "He's got so much energy and he wanted to show it. It's good for the fans and the game."

Kovalchuk added that he is happy to see fellow Russians Ovechkin and Malkin have mended fences.

"Now they are friends," he said. "Everybody should know. They're back, but they're still going to kill each other on the ice."

But Ovechkin told NHL.com that he voted for Stamkos. Keith Tkachuk did as well. Asked for a reason, Tkachuk said, "because he's the youngest guy out there and he had some good moves. He was trying some good things."

Stamkos finished last with only 3.5 percent of the vote.

St. Louis finished third with 15.7 percent of the vote. He got a lot of love among his peers.

Vinny Lecavalier voted for his Tampa Bay teammate, "because I thought he was great, very original and he got me." Lecavalier, though, said he liked Ovechkin's show as well, calling it "crazy" and "pretty original."

Getzlaf also said his vote went to St. Louis "because he was my pick all along." Stamkos gave his teammate the nod, too.

St. Louis' big move was actually a slight-of-hand trick. He pretended to stick the puck on his blade and bring it in as if he was carrying it like a lacrosse stick, but instead he held the puck in his glove and pretended he was playing lacrosse with the puck.

When he got in close, he faked high before dropping the puck on the ice, but Maggio did not flinch and St. Louis wound up not scoring.

"I was hoping he would look up. I needed him to look up, but he didn't," St. Louis said. "Thomas Vanek told me that one today. I had nothing. I was driving here trying to think of what I was going to do."

Niklas Backstrom and St. Louis each voted for Getzlaf. Kovalev was a popular pick as well. He finished second with 19.7 percent of the total votes cast.

Of course, Montreal teammate Mike Komisarek voted for him (that was a guarantee, Komisarek told NHL.com), but Eric Staal also gave Kovalev his vote.

"If you can throw the puck over your head, hold it there and then put it down, you get my vote," Staal told NHL.com, describing one of Kovalev's crazy attempts. "That last performance by No. 8 was pretty good too, but I went with the moves."

Kovalev's most creative move might have been when he used his stick blade to carry the puck and move it around as if it were a soccer ball. Kovalev told NHL.com it is a move he tries on occasion for training.

"It's a good drill to train your ankles," he said. "I just step on the puck and make sure I don't fall."

Kovalev actually said he voted for himself. He didn't want to give Ovechkin his vote because, "in the end he started cheating. He started using somebody else and this is a one-person show, not two."

Kane gave Kovalev his vote, but only because he didn't want to look selfish.

"He's such an entertainer, and he's so good for the League. When you see a guy like that do what he did, that's why he's the face of the NHL. I don't think you're going to remember any move that he did, but you will remember what he did." -- Patrick Kane on Alex Ovechkin
"We had to sign the phone and they're going to give it away, so if they saw I voted for myself I don't think it would look too good," Chicago's superstar told NHL.com. "I should have gone to my own phone and voted for myself 10 times."

Dan Boyle actually voted twice; once for Kovalev and another time for St. Louis.

"I don't know if it was the angle I was at, but I thought Marty actually had that puck on his stick," Boyle told NHL.com. "Sometimes the wax will make it stick and from where I was sitting I couldn't tell. He fooled me. And Kovalev with the skate, that was pretty impressive."

Not to be forgotten, Kane, who admitted he should have tried more showstoppers like Ovechkin -- he promised he will if he gets to compete in another one -- got votes from Mike Modano and Jonathan Toews.

"He tried," Modano told NHL.com. "He looked exhausted, worn out. He had a lot of thoughts going through his head, I'm sure."

Still, no one in either dressing room disputed that Ovechkin stole the show. That's two years running now. What could he possible do next year?

"He might have set the bar again," Getzlaf said.

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com