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Skills Competition

Atlantic wins Skills, will play Metropolitan

Allows goal only to Ryan Kesler's son to defeat Pacific in Shootout

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- After winning the 2017 Coors Light NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday, the Atlantic Division will play the Metropolitan Division in the semifinals of the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Staples Center on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports, NHL TV).

The Pacific Division will play the Central Division in the first semifinal of the 3-on-3 tournament.

By defeating the Pacific Division 4-1 in the Discover NHL Shootout, the final event of the skills competition, the Atlantic Division earned the right to pick its semifinal opponent and whether it would play in the first or second time slot. Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, the Atlantic captain, chose the Metropolitan Division and to play second.

"Why not?" Price said. "That seems to be the team that you're going to face in the final anyway, so I figure if we can beat them early, get it out of the way."

The Metropolitan Division has been the NHL's strongest this season with three teams in the top four in the Eastern Conference, the first-place Washington Capitals (72 points), the third-place Columbus Blue Jackets (68) and the fourth-place Pittsburgh Penguins (65).

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said there might be some tension between the Metropolitan and Atlantic players Sunday with the $1 million prize for the team that wins the tournament.

"We're sharing the same [locker] room here, so it should be interesting," Crosby said.

The Atlantic and Pacific qualified for the Shootout with points compiled in the five earlier events: the Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay, the Honda NHL Four Line Challenge, the DraftKings NHL Accuracy Shooting, the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater, and the Oscar Mayer NHL Hardest Shot.

Goalie Mike Smith scored from the far goal line to give the Pacific Division a win in the Four Line Challenge; Pacific captain Connor McDavid was the Fastest Skater; and Shea Weber won the Hardest Shot for the third year in a row in his first season in the Atlantic Division.

As Price's captain's selection to join the Atlantic for the Shootout, Crosby helped it win by scoring in the Discover Puck round, worth two points. Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins and Weber of the Canadiens also scored for the Atlantic.

But the biggest star of the event was 6-year-old Ryker Kesler, who subbed for his father Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks as the Pacific Division's fifth shooter against Price. In the first four rounds, Price stopped Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks, Bo Horvat of the Vancouver Canucks and Cam Fowler of the Ducks.

Video: Discover NHL Shootout: Mini Kesler beats Price


Price said he could tell Ryan Kesler was up to something before Ryker stepped to center ice to take the next shot.

"He had that crazy look in his eyes," Price said. "I knew he was going to pull something out of his hat."

Although Ryker Kesler fell as he was shooting, he found an opening between Price's pads for the Pacific Division's lone goal in the 10-round competition. He then got up and raised his arms in celebration while skating behind the net.

"It's amazing. It was pretty special," Ryan Kesler said. "The way the crowd booed me and then they cheered him, and when he scored, that celebration, that was the perfect ending."

Ryker said "it was cool" to score on Price, who denied he allowed Ryker to score.

"He beat me clean," Price said.

Ryan Kesler said Ryker had been waiting since the start of the skills competition to get his chance in the spotlight.

"He was waiting two hours," he said. "It's all he wanted to do."

The pro-Kings crowd booed Ryan Kesler and Fowler throughout the competition but loved Ryker.

"He got a lot more cheers than I did, that's for sure. I got a lot of boos," Ryan Kesler said. "The fans switched. I think they liked Kesler, the little Kesler. They still don't like me."

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