TAMPA -- Thank goodness for Amanda Kessel, and for good timing.
Fuzzy on the rules, strategy and approach to the Gatorade NHL Puck Control Relay, an event that contained new components from years past, Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau barely caught the demonstration of the event by Kessel, a member of the U.S. Women's National Team and sister of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel.
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Then, all of a sudden, he was first up, managing a time of 24.650 in the event, which was part of the 2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Amalie Arena on Saturday.
"I didn't really understand what we were doing at first, with the three holes there," Gaudreau said of the gates that contained three openings through which players had to shoot or push the puck. "Thankfully I saw the demonstration -- I almost missed it because I was still in the locker room -- but I saw the ending of the demonstration and I went with my gut there."
But he had no idea how well he'd done. Because it was an event with new components, it was difficult to judge what exactly was a good time. He watched as his competitors went through the course, which was comprised of three skills, stickhandling, cone control and those gates.
New York Islanders forward John Tavares was second in 28.242.
The players were first responsible for controlling a puck through a series of eight pucks in a straight line. They then moved to zig-zagging with a puck through a series of eight bottles of Gatorade.
Lastly -- and this was the tricky part -- they had to get the puck through lighted holes in a series of gates by shooting or guiding the puck through, finally shooting the puck into the net. The holes would light up, which indicated which one to use.
Video: Gatorade NHL Puck Control Relay Recap
The question was, really, how exactly to get the puck through those gates, with no apparent rules in place as to what was off limits.
"I was going to maybe sauce it through," Gaudreau said. "I really wasn't sure what to do. I don't even think I had a plan."
No one pushed the envelope more than Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. Because, he said, he had no other choice.
Karlsson opted to pick up the puck, place it on his stick blade and shovel it through the openings, an approach that was certainly unique.
"I can't really put the stick on the puck like some of the other guys did there, so I had no idea what to do," Karlsson said. "I thought that was the best way to do it since there was no real rules, even though I couldn't really do it at the end."
Karlsson finished sixth in 37.417.
And though his competitors could have cried foul. They instead were in awe.
As Gaudreau said, "I thought he was going to beat me. I was like, that's a lot smarter than what I did."
Not that Karlsson agreed, but he'll take it.
"They thought I was really smart for some reason," Karlsson said. "Which I'm not."
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames, 24.650 seconds
John Tavares, New York Islanders, 28.242
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers, 29.220
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, 32.792
Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers, 33.233
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators, 37.417
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars, 39.078
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs, 44.344