-- Western Conference defenseman Sheldon Souray
couldn't believe his ears as the third period of Sunday's All-Star Game was coming to a close.
Yet, the words cascading from the Bell Centre crowd were so loud that it was unmistakable. With an unbelievable game tied at 11-all in overtime, the fevered crowd was chanting "Defense, defense" at full throat, urging the Eastern Conference to tighten up every time the West gained possession of the puck.
But Souray says neither side needed to be reminded what was at stake.
"Toward the end -- from the beginning of the third period on -- it was more like a real game," Souray said. "I think your competitive juices take over and you want to win."
And that desire resulted in an ending that won't soon be forgotten by the fans or the players performing on the ice.
After the teams combined for 19 goals in the first 43 minutes Sunday night, there were only three goals scored in the game's last 17 minutes. And there were none scored in a wild five-minute overtime session that featured up-and-down action.
So, the game was decided in a shootout and hometown hero Alex Kovalev
, the Eastern Conference captain, won the game by scoring on his attempt as the second of three Eastern Conference shooters. Washington's Alex Ovechkin
added the other East goal as it took the shootout 2-0 and the game, 12-11.
Kovalev, who had 2 goals and 1 assist in regulation, was the Honda NHL MVP.
"It was a pretty fitting end to the game," Souray acknowledged. "We wanted to win, but it was great in the way it ended. The whole weekend; if you wrote a script, that's the way it would turn out. Congratulations to him and congratulations to the city of Montreal."
It might be true that it was a pitch-perfect ending, but there were quite a few plot twists before Kovalev won the 2009 Honda Ridgeline given to the MVP.
Overtime, it seemed, had a little bit of everything -- including the game's only penalty.
Montreal's own Mike Komisarek
was whistled for hooking as Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf
broke in on Boston's Tim Thomas
on a mini-breakaway midway through the extra session. Getzlaf fired high, and Komisarek was off to the penalty box for a very nerve-wracking two minutes.
"We laughed about it with the ref there, 'Great call, way to go,'" Komisarek said. "I was definitely in awe, a little shocked, that he called a penalty. But I had full faith in our penalty kill."
Chicago's Jonathan Toews
didn't even want to contemplate what would have happened if his Western Conference had scored on the man advantage -- not that they didn't give it their best effort anyway.
"It would have been scary if we had scored there," Toews said.
But Thomas held the fort. In fact, he was so good in the game's stretch drive that Montreal fans forgot their hatred of all things Boston to support him as he allowed just three goals on 22 shots.
Thomas made an amazing save in the second minute of OT, denying Calgary's Jarome Iginla
, by going into a full split to get a leg on a goal-bound wrister.
"A penalty, a power play, some great saves -- that overtime had everything you could ask for," Souray said.
And it was just an appetizer for Kovalev's heroics in the shootout, just the second in All-Star history. The 2003 All-Star Game was also decided by penalty-shot attempts.
Surprisingly, Boston's Claude Julien
, the Eastern Conference head coach, led off the shootout parade by sending out Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier
, who was denied by Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo
. Thomas answered by fighting off a Shane Doan
"You know, we had talked before the game, and I told (Montreal coach) Guy (Carbonneau), if we win, I put the lines together, if we lose, it was your job," Julien laughed. "And it was the same thing with the shootout. I picked them, and not Guy; but if we would have lost, it would have been Guy's picks."
But there was no blame to be laid when Kovalev worked his magic and Thomas denied Rick Nash
before Ovechkin put an exclamation point on the game -- and the weekend -- with his shake-and-bake move that left Luongo defenseless and Kovalev the happiest man in a jubilant Bell Centre.
"You can't ask for a better package than this," Kovalev said. "This is something that you are going to remember the rest of your life."