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Johansen plays to crowd in Breakaway Challenge

by Arpon Basu

COLUMBUS -- Hometown hero Ryan Johansen set the bar when he grabbed the son of a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets training staff to assist him in the Honda NHL Breakaway Challenge.

It was up to the other participants to try to match it. Watching them try was hilarious.

The Breakaway Challenge was one of the signature events of the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday at Nationwide Arena, with the players' personalities and skills converging for the fans to enjoy.

Johansen played to the home crowd by removing his Blue Jackets jersey to reveal a red football jersey of the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes on one of his attempts, and on another, he grabbed 7-year-old Cole Vogt, the son of Columbus trainer Mike Vogt, and they skated in on Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks and scored a goal past him. For his final attempt, Johansen recruited six of his Team Foligno teammates to help him re-create the "Flying V" formation from the movie "The Mighty Ducks."

As Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers prepared for his final attempt, his plan was to grab the jersey of New York Rangers forward Rick Nash, a former Blue Jackets captain who was booed lustily by the home crowd all night, and shoot with it on.

But Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter had an even better idea.

He suggested Voracek grab Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, all 5-foot-9, 150 pounds of him, and pull the same move Johansen did.

"I think that little kid was bigger than him," Voracek joked. "Let’s be honest."

Gaudreau, who also was a participant in the Breakaway Challenge, said a request to light his stick on fire during the competition was turned down. But he had no problem accommodating Voracek's request.

"He came up and asked me first if it was all right," Gaudreau said. "I thought it would be pretty funny to do something like that, and it was a lot of fun."

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin also raised his game in an effort to impress the fans watching who determined the winner of the event through a vote on Twitter.

Ovechkin tried to create his own version of the alley-oop seen in slam dunk competitions by recruiting St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko to flip a puck high in the air in the slot so Ovechkin could bat it in.

He swung and missed on his first and second attempts, then received some help from Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo who offered his stick with the wider paddle.

It didn't help.

"To be honest with you, it was so hard to think what you were going to do," Ovechkin said. "Me and [Tarasenko] talk what we going to do, what he's going to do. Just was idea to create something new and I think it was funny."

One thing became clear: There is no threat of Ovechkin one day becoming a two-sport star.

"Probably [Washington] Nationals didn't sign me, 100 percent," Ovechkin said. "I can be water boy? Bat boy, yeah."

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