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All-Star Game

Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin mesh as teammates

Longtime rivals work together to help Metropolitan Division win All-Star Game

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- For one unforgettable weekend, the rivalry between Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was pushed to the back burner.

From the NHL100 presented by GEICO at Microsoft Theater on Friday, when they were honored for being among the 100 Greatest NHL Players Presented by Molson Canadian, through the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Staples Center on Sunday, Crosby and Ovechkin were much more like friends than foes.

They even played together and helped the Metropolitan Division win the 3-on-3 tournament by defeating the Atlantic Division 10-6 in the semifinals and edging the Pacific Division 4-3 in the final.

Although dominant with their respective teams since entering the NHL in 2005-06, Crosby and Ovechkin did not dominate in the All-Star tournament. After each scored a goal and an assist in the semifinal, neither had a point in the final.

Regardless, Ovechkin said, "It was fun. I think we had pretty good chances, but we were not that sharp."

Crosby and Ovechkin spent much of the semifinal trying to set each other up. When Crosby backhanded in a feed from Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk for a goal that extended the Metropolitan Division's lead to 7-5, Ovechkin got the secondary assist.

Video: MET@ATL: Crosby nets silky backhand goal

Crosby finally succeeded in setting up Ovechkin for a tap-in from the right side of the crease with one second left in the second 10-minute half. It wasn't a moment that will go down in NHL All-Star Game history, but it was a nice memory the two rivals can take home with them.

"I was trying to find him," Crosby said. "I know how great his shot is. I'm sure he was a little hesitant to use it in case he hits somebody out here, but it was just trying to make the most of the opportunity. That's a unique opportunity. Usually, you're playing against one another."

Crosby and Ovechkin appeared to enjoy interacting without the pressures that usually come with their meetings. Seemingly tongue in cheek, Ovechkin said he and Crosby are, "Best friends, how I always said."

Video: MET@ATL: Ovechkin beats the clock with late tally

Maybe that's not true, but it is clear there is a great respect between the two.

Backstage at Microsoft Theater on Friday, Crosby and Ovechkin mingled with the legends of the game. In addition to taking photos with likes of Wayne Gretzky, the NHL's all-time leading scorer and also their coach on the Metropolitan Division team, they posed for one together with Ovechkin's father, Misha, who remarked that the picture would be front page news back in Russia.

They spent more time together at the 2017 Coors Light NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday, chatting between and during events.

"We're here and we love the game," Crosby said. "This was a great experience from Friday until the game [Sunday], so I think we enjoyed ourselves. We didn't have to try to do that. Playing on the same team and just going through the skills and all that stuff, it was kind of just easy for that to happen."

After Gretzky informed them they would play together on Sunday, Crosby and Ovechkin talked strategy to try to figure out the best way to make their one-day on-ice relationship work.

"It's a normal thing," Ovechkin said, "when Gretzky came to us and said we were going to play together. We have to have chemistry and we have to understand how we have to move out there."

Although each was minus-2 in the final, Crosby and Ovechkin did contribute to the victory; with the Metropolitan Division trailing 3-2 and 5:55 remaining, Ovechkin dropped to one knee to block a shot from San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns. Cam Atkinson of the Columbus Blue Jackets scored 52 seconds later to tie the game at 3-3.

Then, Crosby was on the ice in the final minute, after the Pacific Division pulled goaltender Mike Smith, to help preserve the lead.

"We were sacrificing everybody out there, blocking shots, going back and forth, don't give them any way to get the lead," Ovechkin said. "So it was fun playing."

Afterward, Crosby and Ovechkin exchanged sticks. With no regular-season games remaining between the Penguins and the Capitals, they won't meet again this season unless they clash in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

If that happens, whatever bonding occurred this weekend will be a distant memory.

"It's just the way these things work," Crosby said. "Everyone is here to have a good time and we all love playing the game, so I think you enjoy yourself here. You can't really think about the next games or things like that. You know that things will pick up and guys will settle into their routine with their teams, but I think everyone tries to have a good time here and interact and have as much fun as they can."

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