ATLANTA – The 56th annual NHL All-Star Weekend kicked off in Atlanta on Saturday as Vincent Lecavalier
, Martin St. Louis
and Mike Lundin participated in the opening night of All-Star festivities. Participating in the Youngstars Game and the Superskills Competition, the three Tampa Bay Lightning players showcased their skills as some of the top talent in the league.
The Eastern Conference skated to a 9-6 victory against the Western Conference, coming from behind to win the competition in the second half of the evening.
Representing the Lightning in the East, Lecavalier and St. Louis were among the star players in the Superskills Competition that took part in two events each. Lecavalier took on San Jose’s Yvgeny Nabokov in the Elimination Shootout before posting the second hardest shot of the Hardest Shot competition. St. Louis first represented Tampa Bay during the Fastest Skater portion of the competition before dueling Nabokov in the Breakaway Challenge.
Following the Obstacle Course Relay, an event which tested the passing and shooting skills of both the skaters and goaltenders, St. Louis took on Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar in the Fastest Skater competition. As the pair raced the full length of the ice St. Louis beat Kopitar by a stride in the two-skater battle.
The West skated into the Elimination Shootout with a 3-2 lead. Lecavalier had a chance to help tie up the competition for the East, but the puck slid off the heel of his stick as he moved to the backhand in front of Nabokov. Lecavalier tried to fake a kick in the slot but Nabokov followed through on the attempt.
Following the Elimination Shootout the festivities turned to the Youngstars Game featuring Lundin. Rookies from across the league faced off for a short game that was highlighted by two six-minute periods and three-on-three play. The fast-paced contest turned into a scoring extravaganza as the players skated for long shifts with no stoppages in play.
After the New Jersey Devils’ David Clarkson opened the scoring Lundin picked up his first of two assists in the event on a goal by Washington Capital Niklas Backstrom. Tapping the puck ahead to Brandon Dubisnky from the blue line Lundin set up the play that allowed Backstrom to score on Detroit Red Wing Chris Osgood.
Lundin later fed Dubinsky the puck from the right faceoff circle, getting the Ranger open in the slot for the sixth Eastern Conference goal. As a nod to the playful nature of the game, Lundin took and won the opening faceoff for the second half of the game.
The Eastern rookies gained a point for their conference with a 6-2 win in the first half of the competition. The West claimed the second half point with a 4-1 win against the East.
Returning to the Skills Competition, the Eastern and Western Conference teams kicked off the second set of challenges with the Accuracy Shooting event. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Tomas Kaberle was the only skater to go four-for-four in the event, becoming only the third player in All-Star history to reach the mark. The task has been accomplished four times, with Boston’s Raymond Bourque reaching perfection in both the 1992 and 1993 All-Star games.
Lecavalier went on to represent the Lightning in the following event, the Hardest Shot competition. Firing his first shot at 101.9 miles per hour Lecavalier posted what ended up being the second-hardest shot of the night. Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara won the competition on the final shot of the event, posting the second hardest shot in All-Star history at 103.1 miles per hour.
The East took an 8-5 lead into the final event, the Shootout Competition. St. Louis was the first skater for the Eastern All Stars, but was denied on both attempts against Nabokov.
Nabokov stood out as the only goaltender to come out of his crease to challenge the shooter, holding off creative attempts by St. Louis. On his first attempt St. Louis tried to scoop the puck onto his stick for a shot from the slot. The Lightning winger then tried to fake Nabokov by skating through the slot backwards, but the Sharks netminder poke-checked the puck as St. Louis turned for the shot attempt.
With the first day of events in the books, Lecavalier and St. Louis are set to participate in the 65th All-Star Game on Sunday, January 27 (6:00p.m., Versus). Sunday’s contest marks Lecavalier’s third All-Star appearance, his first as a starter. St. Louis will appear in his franchise-high fourth All-Star Game.