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AO's smile lights up Atlanta throughout All-Star Weekend

by Adam Kimelman /

Alexander Ovechkin gives fans reason to smile as well, when he pulls out eye-popping moves like the ones that won him the Breakaway Challenge at the SuperSkills Competition.
ATLANTA – The smile on Alexander Ovechkin’s face is now almost as familiar to Atlanta hockey fans as the CNN logo. They certainly had the chance throughout All-Star Weekend to see it as often.

Ovechkin continued to put his festive mark on the NHL’s mid-season classic, following his outstanding showing at the SuperSkills contest Saturday night with a pair of goals during Sunday’s All-Star Game.

All the while, Ovechkin smiled like a kid on Christmas morning.

“I think the fans deserve to have fun,” said Ovechkin. “They watched great players tonight and they should have fun, that’s why they do this All-Star Game.”

They also do it so players like Ovechkin – who leads the League with 39 goals and is third with 65 points – can show off their sublime skills.

Ovechkin’s goals came in the East’s five-goal first period. First he flicked the rebound of a Jason Spezza shot under goalie Chris Osgood at 13:35 to give the East a 3-1 advantage.

Minutes later, he found an open spot in the slot – only in an All-Star Game could Ovechkin go unchecked in the slot – and knocked in a Martin St. Louis pass at 17:49. It was the final score in an opening frame that ended with the East holding a 5-1 advantage.

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The Capitals star had other chances to add to his totals, but not even a sandblaster could knock the wide smile off Ovechkin’s face.

“I wanted to make sure the fans have fun,” he said.

Fans long have had fun watching this star. His bravura outing Saturday night was highlighted by his winning the inaugural Breakaway Challenge.

On his first attempt Saturday night, he dribbled the puck in the air on the end of his stick and tried to whack it in with a baseball swing, but missed. Rather than be cowed by his failure, though, Ovechkin instead upped the ante. He tried the same move again, but this time smacked the puck high in the air, spun around 360 degrees under it and again tried to whack it in. But again, he missed.

Regardless, the four-judge panel loved it, awarding him a winning total of 60 points. Ovechkin’s daring also played well with the packed house at Philips Arena.

Ovechkin’s two goals Sunday night gave him three in his two All-Star appearances, moving him past Mike Gartner to become the Capitals’ all-time leading goal scorer in All-Star games. He also became the first Capitals player to score twice in an All-Star Game.

“You should have told me sooner,” Ovechkin quipped when informed of his stats. “I would have scored more.”

If he has it his way, he’ll get the opportunity. Ovechkin loved the All-Star experience, saying it was just like having a three-day vacation.

“I spend great time with my friends, great players,” he said. “I have a couple more (autographed) sticks for my collection, so it was fun.”

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