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Legends still leave players, fans in awe

by Staff
MONTREAL -- Today's players with the Montreal Canadiens live with the club's rich history on a daily basis. Sunday, the best and brightest from across the League happily shared that history during the NHL's All-Star Game.

Legends from Canadiens history were introduced throughout the game, greeted with standing ovations from the adoring crowd at a sold-out Bell Centre during stoppages of play. Each time, the current All-Stars joined in the veneration.

"Those guys paved the way for us," said Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas. "They are legends for a reason. I never had a chance to see them play obviously, but I've heard so much about them from my grandfather and my dad."

Actually, the venerations began at the start of Sunday's All-Star Game as Bob Gainey, a former player and the current GM of the team, and Jean Beliveau, a 10-time Stanley Cup winner, took part in the ceremonial faceoff to kick off the game. San Jose's Joe Thornton and Montreal's Alex Kovalev, the All-Star Game team captains, were clearly pleased to shake hands with both legends.

Midway through the first period, Henri Richard was introduced, the spotlight falling on him as he stood in the archway of one of the Bell Centre's section entrances. The crowd erupted and the players on the ice for the upcoming faceoff joined in by tapping their sticks on the ice, hockey's universal sign of respect, for a man that won 11 Stanley Cups.

A minute later, Serge Savard was introduced in similar fashion. This time, the linesman preparing to drop the puck took time out of his duties to offer his own applause.

In the second period, Yvon Cournoyer was brought out to a crowd still humming after a quick barrage of four goals in the period's first six minutes. Players on both benches banged their sticks of the boards -- another hockey tradition of offering respect.

Four minutes later, Youppi!, the Canadiens' beloved mascot, led the cheers as Dickie Moore was introduced to the crowd.

Later in the period, the huge, high-definition scoreboard above center ice flashed a picture of former Canadiens coach Pat Burns, who coached the team from 1988 to 1992. Burns recently revealed he has been diagnosed with cancer for the third time in five years.

"It was nice to see the guys that played in Montreal in the past be introduced during the game," said Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom. "The fans really responded to it and it was nice to see. The (All-Star) players liked it, too. That's hockey, we are all one big family."  

-- Shawn P. Roarke

A memorable experience -- Boston Bruins center Marc Savard already knew what it was like to play with Ottawa wing Dany Heatley. The two played together when they were both with the Atlanta Thrashers.

Sunday night, Savard got a taste of Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom's life. Alex Ovechkin joined him and Heatley on a line for the Eastern Conference.

"We had a lot of fun, that's for sure," Savard said. "He only needs one chance to shoot it in when he gets it. It's something I'll never forget. We had a good mix."

Savard, who finished with three assists, set up Ovechkin's lone goal in the first period with a give-and-go pass back.

-- Dan Rosen

Saluting Savard -- When asked his impressions of Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard over the first half of the season, Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla was more than willing to offer his compliments.

"He's very good and has been one of the top couple passers in the game," Iginla said. "He's a competitive guy and it seems the coaches are giving him more opportunities. He always finds ways to get open and always gets it done points-wise."

Savard, who dished three assists in Sunday's 57th NHL All-Star Game, has 16 goals and 56 points and a League-leading plus-28 rating through 47 games for the Bruins this season.

"What I am surprised (by) is, he's leading the League in plus-minus and that's an area I didn't expect to see him as the leader in that one," Iginla said. "I don't see him very often since he's in the East, but he must have added a lot of defensive responsibility in there and he's playing very responsible. That's pretty impressive to be at the top of the League and I know his team is having a great year, but he's having fun and he's always very competitive."

-- Mike G. Morreale

Home cooking -- Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek was stunned to learn that he was the ice time leader in the game after two periods with 14:28 over the course of 11 shifts.

"Really?" Komisarek said when informed of the stat. "I guess we had Carbo (Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau) back. I don't know if he had something to do with it. I didn't even know they were keeping ice time."

Oh, yes they were. The NHL off-ice officials were keeping every stat that they normally do in a regular game. Komisarek, who is one of the leading hitters and shot blockers in the League, wasn't credited with any in either category.

He did, however, have two shots on goal and a near breakaway chance when he stormed out of the penalty box in overtime.

"I was all offense tonight," Komisarek said. "I was looking to get on the scoreboard."

-- Dan Rosen

Kane buys one late -- For a while there, it wasn't looking good for Chicago forward Patrick Kane. He was stoned by Henrik Lundqvist late in the second period and was goalless on his first four shots.

However, Kane got loose on a breakaway thanks to a great headman pass by Ryan Getzlaf and he finally scored his first All-Star Game goal in the third period. It gave the West an 11-10 lead that was short-lived, as Jay Bouwmeester scored 62 seconds later to force overtime.

"It was nice to put one in," Kane said. "When there's 22 goals in the game, you don't want to be the guy who comes away with no goals."

Kane gave Lundqvist full credit for his save on him late in the second period. Kane was alone in front with an empty net, but Lundqvist managed to come across the crease, roll over and rob Kane with his glove 17:48 into the period.

"I caught the puck in close and I didn't lift it as high as I wanted to," Kane said. "It was an unbelievable save how he came across like that. Props to him on that one."

-- Dan Rosen

A good friend -- Chicago captain Jonathan Toews was running around the West locker room after the game like a chicken with his head cut off. Toews was trying to solicit autographs from all of his All-Star teammates.

A buddy of his from back home had bought an All-Star jersey and asked Toews to get everyone on the West squad to sign it. As the guys were leaving the room, Toews was still missing five autographs.

"He bought the jersey and I have to get everybody to sign it," Toews said. "I can't screw this up."

Toews said he was "a little nervous" coming into this All-Star weekend, but that he told himself to "just relax into it." Seems the Hawks' 20-year-old captain settled in just fine, scoring a go-ahead goal for the Western Conference in the third period.

"Meeting all of the great players [in the team locker rooms before Saturday's practice and Sunday's game] was unbelievable," Toews said. "Gordie Howe, Henri Richard, Guy Lafleur ... there's a lot of history there."

-- Dan Rosen and Bob Condor

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