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Skills Competition

All-Stars feel pressure in Skills Challenge Relay

Players struggle in spotlight during first event of competition

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- There weren't exactly consequences for a poor performance. This was the 2017 Coors Light NHL All-Star Skills Competition, not the Stanley Cup Final, not a gold medal match.

But there was pressure on the All-Stars at Staples Center, especially in the first event, a team challenge based on mostly individual performances.

And no one knew that better than Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter.

"A lot of things going through your mind," Suter said of how he felt during the one-timer portion of the Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay, with Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon passing him pucks. "The first one I put a little low. The second one a little too high. And then I just fell apart there."

Suter tried and tried and tried again. The buzzer sounded, finally, signaling the end of the 30-second allotment of time for his Central Division team. He still hadn't made the shot.

"It is what it is, right? It was fun, but I wish I could have hit the net there," Suter said.

Video: NHL Skills Challenge Relay Recap

As a reporter walked away from Suter's post-Skills Competition media scrum, Suter called out, asking whether there were any questions about his second event, the Honda NHL Four Line Challenge, in which the defenseman scored on one of his two shots from the near blue line.

He smiled.

"I'm just kidding," he said. "I told (Wild coach) Bruce [Boudreau], I said, 'Bruce, I'm not a half-wall guy. I've got to be up top. Then I'll be able to make it."

And after it was over? He got these words of consolation from his son, Brooks.

"He goes, 'Aww, sorry Dad.' But then the second one, he was all jacked up for that one."

Suter wasn't alone. There were a few seemingly nerves-related flubs by Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews and Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo during the Skills Challenge Relay.

Even with the hometown crowd behind him, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty narrowly beat the 30-second time limit in the passing portion of the Skills Challenge Relay, the mini-nets eluding him, before he finally completed his task.

He could have been forgiven for wiping imaginary sweat off his brow.

"That [stunk]," Doughty said. "I just couldn't get her in there. I had a few close calls, then eventually you start thinking, 'I don't even care anymore.' Then you realize you've still kind of got to finish it out. I could do a better job than I did out there."

In the end, it didn't matter. The players were left with laughs, a few chirps from their teammates, and perhaps a little relief that they were out of the spotlight.

"You know everyone's kind of just watching you try to pass pucks into the net, which if no one's watching I'm sure you can it four out of four," Doughty said. "Yeah, I was a little bit nervous, but I had fun with it. It was a lot of fun.

"When everyone's watching, it's a different feeling. It's not like just doing it in practice."

Video: Drew Doughty on being a part of All-Star Weekend

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