NASHVILLE -- Detroit Red Wings rookie forward Dylan Larkin is the fastest skater in the history of the NHL All-Star Skills competition.
Larkin, 19, took advantage of the opportunity he earned Saturday night to best the record held by Mike Gartner, finishing his lap of the Bridgestone Arena ice surface in 13.172 seconds during the Bridgestone Fastest Skater competition that opened the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
"I really went into the last lap and said I was going to give it all I had, why not just go for it," Larkin said
Gartner held the record for two decades, posting a time of 13.386 seconds at the 1996 NHL All-Star Game.
Larkin was not born when Gartner set the record at 36 years of age. Gartner, then with the Toronto Maple Leafs, set the record on Feb. 4, 1996 and Larkin was not born until July 30.
"That's way more impressive than doing it at 20," he said with a smile after being informed of Gartner's age at time of the record.
It was almost not meant to be. Going into the second turn of the assault on Gartner's record, Larkin's skate slid slightly and it looked like he might fall.
"I dug in pretty hard there," he said. "It could have been pretty bad, probably would have been my last All-Star Game if I kept [falling], but luckily I got my footing."
Larkin said that he did not even think about the stumble as his regained his footing and pushed as hard as possible toward the finish line.
"I didn't even know I won until I heard the crowd go crazy," Larkin said. "I couldn't see the scoreboard or anything like that."
Larkin won the eight-man preliminary competition and the right to go for Gartner's mark with a first-round time of 12.894 seconds on a shortened course. That time bested Roman Josi (13.527) of the Nashville Predators in the first heat of the competition.
"When I saw I was going against him, I wasn't expecting to win because I know how fast he is from playing against him," said Josi, who still ended up with the second-fastest time of the preliminary round. "It's pretty impressive that he broke such an old record. He was flying out there."
Larkin was surprised at exactly how fast he went, but was not surprised that he was among the favorites even though he was considerably younger than the other competitors.
"I've always been a good skater, but as I have started working out and gaining strength, I think my speed has taken off," he said. "I've always had a really good first three or four steps."
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Brandon Saad won the second heat with a time of 13.634, beating the favored Matt Duchene (14.026) of the Colorado Avalanche.
In the third heat, Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall defeated Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, who lost control coming out of the first turn and finished the race by skating backward after Hall pulled away. Hall had a time of 13.654.
Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang won a close heat against Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets, posting a time of 14.801.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin won the Bridgestone Fastest Skater competition last season in Columbus. He is presently suspended by the Lightning for not reporting to a game for the Syracuse Crunch in the American Hockey League.
Rookies have won the Fastest Skater competition four consecutive times. Carl Hagelin won in 2012 and Michael Grabner won in 2011. Larkin is the only rookie in the 2016 All-Star Game and is the youngest of the 44 players.
Larkin earned three points for the Eastern Conference by winning his heat, posting the fastest preliminary time and breaking Gartner's record to help give the Eastern Conference a 5-1 team lead after one event.
"I think it is a fun thing, a celebration of how my year is going," he said of the record-setting performance. "I was able to just kick back, relax, meet the guys and have as much fun as I can. It's a no-pressure, fun weekend."