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Eastern All-Stars Pull Out 8-7 Win Over West

by Erin Chenderlin / Tampa Bay Lightning
ATLANTA, Ga. – The Eastern Conference All-Stars squeaked out a one-goal win to beat the Western Conference 8-7 in the NHL’s 56th All-Star game. Carolina’s Eric Staal took home MVP honors with two goals and an assist on the game-winner. Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets scored a hat trick for the West.

Tampa Bay Lightning All-Stars Martin St. Louis and Eastern Conference captain Vincent Lecavalier had a hand in three of the East’s five goals in the first period.

The scoring got off to a quick start as Nash scored just 12 seconds into the game to put the West up 1-0. The goal marked the fastest score in All-Star history. New York Islanders goaltender Rick Dipietro, mic’d up for the first period, seemed to be talking with the TV announcers when the goal went in. It was the West’s only tally of the period as the Eastern Conference went on to score the next five.

Less than two minutes later, Staal put the East on the board to tie the game at 1. Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin skated into the offensive zone with Staal and passed the puck across the ice to Buffalo’s Brian Campbell along the left sideboards. Campbell passed the puck just above the crease to Staal, waiting to the left of Osgood, who lifted the puck over the diving goaltender for the score.

The East notched its second goal of the period when Montreal’s Andrei Markov put the puck through the five-hole of Osgood just past the halfway point of the period. The puck got tangled in Osgood’s skates as it slid through the pads and across the goal line.

St. Louis helped set up the East’s third goal as he passed the puck up ice to Ottawa’s Jason Spezza, who fed Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin for the goal. Ovechkin snuck the shot in behind Osgood for his first career All-Star goal.

Vincent Lecavalier had a hand in his team’s fourth goal to put the East up 4-1 with just under five minutes remaining in the period. Lecavalier passed the puck to Malkin, who brought the puck out from behind the net and made a pass across the crease to a waiting Campbell. Osgood tried to slide across the crease to meet Campbell, but Campbell beat him stick side.

St. Louis notched his second assist of the night on Ovechkin’s second goal of the game. Spezza fed St. Louis with a no-look one-timer pass from between the circles as St. Louis waited by the left side of the net. St. Louis fired a quick pass to Ovechkin, who put a wrist shot past Osgood with just more than two minutes remaining for the final score of the period.

The second period started with players from both teams lined up on the ice as the league honored Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first black player. Lecavalier and Western Conference captain Jarome Iginla presented O’Ree with a gift before the period got underway.

The momentum seemed to swing to the Western Conference in the second period as they scored two to cut the lead in half to 5-3. Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks started in goal for the West, across the ice from Florida’s Tomas Vokoun. St. Louis stayed on the line with Spezza and Ovechkin, as the trio combined for six points in the first period.

Nash opened the goal-scoring in the second with a breakaway goal on Vokoun. Nash deked his way in and went forehand to backhand to beat Vokoun past his outstretched pad with just under 10 minutes gone in the second. With his second goal, Nash became the first NHL player to score two or more goals in consecutive All-Star games. Less than a minute later, Minnesota’s Marian Gaborik had another breakaway try for the East, but Vokoun made the save to preserve the 5-2 score.

Just past the 15-minute mark, Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer brought the West to within two as he shot from between the circles to beat Vokoun low stick side. Joe Thornton of San Jose and Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin had the assists.

Nabokov was perfect in his 20 minutes of play, keeping the East scoreless with eight saves on eight shots. His best save of the period came with a minute left in the period on Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk, left unguarded in front of the net. Kovalchuk fired a point-blank shot from the left hash mark that Nabokov snagged with a slick glove save. The play had Kovalchuk down on the ice in disbelief before congratulating the San Jose goalie on the remarkable save. Nabokov stopped Kovalchuk again as he stormed down the ice on a breakaway as time expired.  

Manny Legace of St. Louis and Boston’s Tim Thomas took over between the pipes for the final period of the game. Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf scored 41 seconds into the third period as he skated in and lifted the puck above Thomas’ stick side from in close to cut the lead to 5-4.

Nash recorded his third goal of the game for the 15th hat trick in All-Star history to tie the score at five with 18:04 remaining in the period. Iginla battled along the boards to force a turnover and dished the puck to Nash for a breakaway. Nash took off down the ice and put the puck high with a backhand shot to beat a diving Thomas high glove side.

The tie didn’t last long however, as Atlanta’s Marian Hossa and Scott Gomez of the New York Rangers took off on a two-on-one. Hossa, going down the right side, dished the puck to Gomez who fed it back across past Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski. Hossa beat Legace just past the left skate to bring the lead back to the Eastern Conference 6-5. The West tied the game less than a minute later as Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf took a pass from Getzlaf to beat Thomas and knot the game at 6.

The Western Conference took its first lead of the game with nine minutes remaining. Sedin fired a quick pass from behind the net to Gaborik, who shot the one-timer to beat Thomas past the right skate. The lead didn’t last long, as Staal scored his second of the night tie the game at 7 with 7:25 remaining. Staal passed across the circles to Kovalchuk, who fed it back past Phaneuf to Staal, who buried it past the left side of Legace.

Boston’s Marc Savard scored the game-winning goal for the East with 21 seconds remaining. Staal passed the puck from behind the net to Campbell in the left faceoff circle. He fed a quick pass to Savard, waiting between the hash marks, who snapped off a quick wrist shot to beat Legace low stick side.

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