RALEIGH, N.C. -- Eric Staal was left with no choice after the team he put together blew a 4-0 lead and came up short against Team Lidstrom in an 11-10 defeat at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover.
Staal took the blame for disappointing his home fans at RBC Center.
"We got complacent. I'm not going to lie to you," said Staal, flashing his sense of humor one final time during All-Star Weekend. "I'll take the brunt of it."
Team Staal was the fan favorite with all three Carolina Hurricanes -- Staal, Jeff Skinner and Cam Ward -- drawing cheers whenever they touched the puck or came up with a big save.
Ward drew the start between the pipes and looked like he could garner some MVP consideration as he had a 4-0 lead halfway through the first period. He made a pair of good stops on Danny Briere and Loui Eriksson and seemed to be on cruise control.
But Anze Kopitar ended Ward's dream of a shutout with 9:50 left in the period. Dustin Byfuglien, Eriksson and Matt Duchene added goals in a span of 3:13. Four goals on 14 shots might not sound all that great, but Ward achieved his goal of allowing less than 5 goals during the first 20 minutes.
"Yeah, I thought I was doing pretty good the first 10 minutes," Ward said. "It was like, whoa, this ain't so bad. And boom, four goals against. But I did the best I could. Those guys are All-Stars. They're going to put the puck in the net when they have good chances like that."
Skinner might've drawn the loudest cheers whenever he touched the puck, but he couldn't find a way to score a goal in 14:42 of ice time. He finished with an assist and four shots as linemates Paul Stastny and Patrick Kane continually tried to feed the 18-year-old for a goal that would've blown the roof off the building.
A top contender for the Calder Trophy, Skinner couldn't recall the last time he played in a game where he had so many glorious chances that he couldn't finish.
"I'm trying to think about that one," Skinner said. "Paul and Patrik Elias were trying to get me the puck all night. Unfortunately I couldn't get one in. But it was fun."
Staal was staring at an empty score sheet after 40 minutes, but he scored early in the third period and drew his team to within 11-10 by scoring with 34 seconds left in regulation. It wasn't enough to get the win, but Staal gave the crowd the reason it was looking for to come to its feet.
"I could feel they were ready to cheer if me or Skins would finally put one in the net," Staal said. "We were trying as hard as we could and linemates were feeding us. So I was glad to be able to get one through [Tim] Thomas there to get the crowd up out of their seats."
The entire weekend should serve as an eye-opening experience about the passion of hockey fans in North Carolina. Whether it was the NHL Fan Fair or Honda SuperSkills or the All-Star Game itself, the players were blown away by how much energy and enthusiasm the fans brought to the table.
"The fans were tremendous," Ward said. "It was great for the players and the fans from out of town that came in to be able to see how hockey is down here in the south. I think they're going to go home with a different perspective on Raleigh and the game in itself. We're blessed with the fact that we get to play here every day."
"Yeah, it was incredible," Staal said. "I thought the atmosphere, especially the start, it was awesome. Fans were excited. The weather was unbelievable. The fans were tailgating. It was awesome. It was a lot of fun. We came up a bit short, but good game overall."
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