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Markov lends a hand in East victory

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Andrei Markov marked his All-Star debut with a goal against Detroit's Chris Osgood in the first period.
ATLANTA  (CP) - Eric Staal scored twice and helped set up Marc Savard's game-winner with 20.9 seconds remaining in the third period Sunday night as the Eastern Conference edged the Western Conference 8-7 in the 56th NHL all-star game.

Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets had a hat trick for the Western Conference but Staal edged him for the all-star MVP honors, bringing home a brand-new Dodge Journey as a result.

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals had a pair of goals while Marian Hossa of the hometown Atlanta Thrashers, Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens and Brian Campbell of the Buffalo Sabres also scored for the East, who won despite missing the game's brightest star in Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 20-year-old centre is out with a high ankle sprain.

Marian Gaborik of the Minnesota Wild, Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames, Scott Niedermayer and Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks added goals for the West, who beat the East 12-9 last year in Dallas.

Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks pitched a shutout in his 20 minutes of work as the West made a game of it after falling behind 5-1.

It appeared early on as if it would be a big night for goals, with both teams scoring on their first shot on goal.

Nash scored the fastest goal in all-star game history, jumping on a turnover and rifling a wrist shot top corner and glove side on New York Islanders netminder Rick DiPietro just 12 seconds into the contest to give the West the early 1-0 lead. The previous record was 19 seconds by Ted Lindsay at the 1950 all-star game.

But then it was all Eastern Conference for the rest of the period, Staal tying it 1-1 at 1:20 when he patiently outwaited Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood and beat him upstairs.

Markov, among the 15 first-time all-stars in Sunday's game, pinched in and re-directed a nice pass from Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers at 9:43 to make it 2-1.
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Ovechkin got his first of two goals in the period when he one-timed a beauty of a backhand pass from Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza at 13:35. It was 4-1 at 15:10 when Campbell snuck in from the point and one-timed a pass from Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin.

Ovechkin completed the first-period scoring at 17:49 when Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning found him at the side of the net for an easy tap-in and a 5-1 lead.

Nash, playing on a line with Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings and Jarome Iginla of the Flames, popped his second goal of the game at 9:34 of the second period. He used a dazzling backhand deke to undress Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers on a breakaway.

The West then scored again to cut it to 5-3, with Niedermayer snapping a low wrist shot from the slot past Vokoun at 15:08.

While the scoring was done for the period, the entertainment was not. Hometown favourite Ilya Kovalchuk of the Thrashers, all alone in front, was stoned on a flashy glove save from Nabokov - easily the best save of the game.

If that wasn't enough, Nabokov then stacked the pads on Kovalchuk on a breakaway as time expired in the middle period. Kovalchuk dropped and kicked his stick in mock disgust.

The West kept crawling back as Getzlaf roofed a shot from in-close over Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins just 41 seconds into the third period to cut the Eastern lead to 5-4.

The comeback was complete at 5-5 when Nash danced in alone and beat Thomas with a backhand beauty at 1:56.

The 18,644 fans at a soldout Philips Arena were on their feet when Hossa put the East back up 6-5. The Thrashers winger finishing off a pretty 2-on-1 break with Scott Gomez and beating a defenceless Manny Legace of the St. Louis Blues at 4:08.

But the scoring continued as Phaneuf slid a loose puck behind Thomas at 5:12 to tie again at 6-6 before Gaborik gave the West its first lead since Nash's opening goal by one-timing a shot behind Thomas at 10:57.

The East wasn't about to give up, however, and Staal polished off a give-and-go with Kovalchuk at 12:35 to tie it 7-7. That set up Staal's final shift of the game when he found Savard streak in the slot and the Bruins centre beating Legace top corner on the glove side to cap a thrilling third period.

Notes - There were no penalties called in the game .. Rock band The Hives opened the night with a pair of songs .. The Atlanta Boy Choir performed the U.S. national anthem while Kathleen Edwards sang O Canada .. Among the celebrities at the game were actors David Boreanaz from the TV show Bones, Taylor Kitsch from Friday Night Lights, Matthew Modine from Weeds, Thorsten Kaye of All My Children, Alyssa Milano from the '80s show Who's The Boss as well as country music superstar Garth Brooks and Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine .. This is the first time since 1986 that no Quebec-born goalie has participated in the all-star game. Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo were voted in as starters but both pulled out for personal reasons. .. Next year's all-star game goes in Montreal as the Canadiens celebrate their 100th anniversary.

The forward lines - West: Nash, Datsyuk, Iginla; Sedin, Thornton, Gaborik; Horcoff, Ribeiro, Kopitar and Perry, Arnott, Getzlaf. East: Alfredsson, Lecavalier, Malkin; Oveckin, Spezza, St. Louis; Kovalchuk, Staal, Savard; Hossa, Gomez, Richards.
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