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Sakic Leads Western All-Stars To Victory

by Staff Writer / Colorado Avalanche

DALLAS (AP) - Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are already thinking about their next All-Star game together. There should be plenty more chances for the young sensations - and likely soon.

Maybe next time, they won't be overshadowed on the ice.

While Crosby and Ovechkin were the main attractions in the league's first midseason showcase since 2004, the night belonged to one of the NHL's old stars.

Colorado's Joe Sakic, making his 12th All-Star appearance, had four assists to lead the Western Conference to a 12-9 victory Wednesday night.

"It was a wide-open game with a lot of goals," said Sakic, who captained the West squad. "I don't know what more you want."

Maybe some more from the flashy young duo that's already being compared to Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

Crosby and Ovechkin started on the same line and played most of the game together for the Eastern Conference, but just never could get into the flow. Ovechkin's goal in the second period was the only point between them.

"There were 21 goals, you think I would have had one," Crosby said, jokingly. "I guess it wasn't meant to be. I had a few chances, it just didn't work out."

The 19-year-old Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who was the top vote-getter for the All-Star game, leads the NHL in scoring with 72 points. Ovechkin, the 21-year-old Moscow native, was Rookie of the Year last season and has 65 points this season for Washington. His 29 goals are one shy of the league lead.

Gretzky, the only other teenager to lead the league in scoring, was also 19 when he made his first All-Star appearance in 1980 - and was also held without a point.

"That makes me feel a little better," Crosby said.

Gretzky went on to become the NHL's career scoring leader.

On several shifts, Ovechkin gave up the puck to Crosby, who still managed only three shots. Ovechkin took five shots, and whiffed on a couple of other chances.

"I tried to help him. Next All-Star game, it will happen," Ovechkin said. "There were a couple of times I normally would have shot. But I wanted to play for the fans. I tried to help him but it didn't work."

Well-traveled Yanic Perreault of Phoenix, Columbus' Rick Nash, Minnesota's Brian Rolston and Martin Havlat of Chicago each had two goals for the West.

Daniel Briere, one of three starters from Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo, started the game on the line with Crosby and Ovechkin. While the youngsters struggled, Briere had a goal and four assists and was selected the MVP - playing the rest of the game with a different duo.

"With Sidney and Alex being the future faces of the NHL, I was kind of the other guy with the two," Briere said. "I had fun. I played one shift early on with them to start the game. But I don't think it really matters who you play with here. There's so many talented players."

And the game was a high-scoring affair, befitting post-lockout rules and new streamlined uniforms designed, in part, to make the players faster.

Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara, at 6-foot-9 the tallest player in NHL history, scored two goals for the East squad.

Neither Crosby or Ovechkin were in the NHL when the last All-Star game was played, before the lockout and then the Olympics last year put the game on the shelf. They were among 20 first-time All-Stars.

Sakic, who has spent his entire 18-season career with the Colorado/Quebec franchise, was the MVP of the last All-Star game when he scored three goal. He was the most tenured All-Star this season.

His hat-trick in '04 wasn't enough for the Western Conference in a 6-4 loss. The goal-fest Wednesday night still came short of the 2001 game when the North American squad beat the World team 14-12.

This time, Sakic was playing set-up man. He assisted on consecutive goals less than a minute apart midway through the second period that put the West ahead to stay at 7-5. Those were among four goals in a 4 1/2-minute stretch against New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur, who allowed six goals in 16 shots he faced during the second period.

"There are a lot of points to be had out there," Sakic said.

Sakic's four assists pushed his All-Star total to 16, surpassing Mark Messier's record 14 in 15 games. Sakic moved into third on the list of All-Star points with 22, trailing only Gretzky (25) and Lemieux (23).

Brodeur, a nine-time All-Star who leads the NHL with a 2.01 goals against average, gave up a quick goal to San Jose's Patrick Marleau. He then had a series of nice saves, including a sprawling stop, before the West barrage with goals by Rolston, Nash, Havlat and Perreault.

Nash split two defenders after getting a pass from Sakic to break a 5-5 tie.

Perreault didn't sign with Phoenix until late October and is playing with his third team in three years - and is on his sixth stop in a 13-season career.

Besides all the fresh faces, the players looked different wearing new uniform systems that the NHL and Reebok tested and designed for more than two years. There were nearly 100 different versions before they came up with what the stars wore - and all 30 NHL teams will use beginning next season.

It's the biggest change to NHL uniforms since the early 1960s, when synthetic fabrics replaced the old wool jerseys. The difference in the new streamlined uniforms was obvious. Instead of bulky tops, the players looked like they were hardly wearing any pads.

"Felt good," Crosby said. "I thought the first period, you could feel it a little bit. But after that, it felt comfortable and obviously you could tell everybody is not soaked out there. So that's a nice feeling, too."

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