Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon and the Central Division will take on the Pacific Division in the first game of Sunday's NHL All-Star Game. That was the decision that was made from the NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
The Central Division lost 6-3 to the Pacific after the first five rounds of the skill event, but the Pacific then fell to the Atlantic Division in the shootout for the chance to choose which opponent and game the squad wanted to play in Sunday's All-Star semifinals. The Atlantic chose the second contest versus the Metropolitan Division.
MacKinnon participated in four events in the annual skills competition, taking part in the skills challenge relay, four line challenge, fastest skater and hardest shot.
The marquee event for the speedy MacKinnon was the fastest skater competition, and he was up against a formidable opponent in Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid. McDavid came out better from the first turn and MacKinnon could never catch up. The Avs center finished the course in 13.620 seconds, six-tenths of a second behind McDavid, who finished as the overall fastest skater.
MacKinnon was a late add for the Central in the hardest shot, taking the spot of Nashville Predators' forward P.K. Subban. MacKinnon had shots of 92.3 and 89.9 miles per hour but couldn't top the speed of Los Angeles' Drew Doughty.
In the challenge relay, MacKinnon was a passer for one-time shots with Chicago's Duncan Keith, Minnesota's Ryan Suter and St. Louis' Vladimir Tarasenko. The Central toped the Pacific in the relay with a time of 1:44.030.
The Avalanche forward shot from the goal line in the four line challenge but only fired one puck. His first shot just missed the five-hole opening in the net on the other side of the ice before he called an audible. MacKinnon beckoned Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford to take the second attempt, which could have resulted in 20 points for the Central in the challenge if made.
Crawford missed his attempt, but the Pacific Division followed up with the same move and was successful. Arizona's Mike Smith, who is the last goalie to score in an NHL regular season game, buried his shot from the far goal line to seal the overall event win.
The 2016 NHL All-Star Game is Sunday at 1:30 p.m. MT. The 3-on-3 tournament will feature two 20-minute semifinal games with the winners then facing off for bragging rights and a $1 million prize in the championship.
NBC will televise the All-Star Game live in the United States, while fans in Canada can watch the contest on CBC, Sportsnet and TVA Sports.