MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens couldn't have asked for a better ending to all-star weekend.
A sellout crowd at the Bell Centre was roaring as the teams traded chances in overtime of the all-star game on Sunday and absolutely exploded when Habs forward Alexei Kovalev scored what turned out to be the shootout winner.
Kovalev also scored twice in regulation as the Eastern Conference All-Stars pulled out a 12-11 victory over the West and earned the MVP honours as a result. He won a truck along with the adoration of the hometown crowd.
The game ended up turning into the showcase of skill it's intended to be and the fans in Montreal responded in kind. The city in the midst of a hockey renaissance that seems to be culminating now with the celebration of the Habs centennial season.
"I think hockey is more popular now than it was in the '70s when we won four Cups in a row," said former Canadiens player Serge Savard. "They had 22,000 people at the workout yesterday morning. And you can see people in the streets, people with cars with flags, with the 'CH' flag, the waiting list for season tickets.
"I've never seen that like it is now."