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Stars' Benn shines in Accuracy Shootout

by Tal Pinchevsky

KANATA, Ont. -- It was a field that featured two defending winners and the NHL's leading goal scorer.

But despite the competition, Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn and Philadelphia Flyers rookie Matt Read surprised the capacity crowd at ScotiaBank Place in the Accuracy Shootout Event at the Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills competition, with Benn winning the event.

With previous accuracy winners Daniel Sedin and Marian Hossa also participating, along with the NHL's leading goal scorer, Steven Stamkos, Benn and Read set the pace early. Read eliminated fellow rookie Cody Hodgson when he hit all four targets in an impressive 14.011 seconds. From there, the only player capable of topping Read's opening-round time was Benn, who hit his targets in 13.583 seconds.


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Benn and Read went on to meet in the final, with Benn saving his best for last, posting the night's best time when he hit his targets in 10.204 seconds. Benn's accomplishment was made even more remarkable by the fact that he had his appendix removed just two weeks before the event.

"[The surgery] wasn't a good feeling, but I had a speedy recovery. It was a possibility that I might not be able to come, but fortunately I came here and it's been a good weekend so far," said the first-time All-Star, who was admittedly nervous in the opening round. "I saw a goal scorer like Steve Stamkos, it looked like he was having a tough time so I got a little worried."

If Benn and Read surprised onlookers with their accuracy, Stamkos' trouble and first-round elimination seemed just as unlikely. After hitting his top targets early, Stamkos consistently missed his lower bulls-eyes. In an effort to make light of his misfires, Stamkos played to the crowd when he placed a baseball cap on his head and started wiring one-timers at the gaping net before being eliminated with an event-worst time of 44.684.

"I knew I was going to have trouble with the low ones. The guys were bugging me that I don't score any goals low," said Stamkos, who leads the NHL with 32 goals. "I had to throw the hat on in the end. The hair was getting in the way. I'm going to get some ribbing, guys telling me to cut my hair after that."

It was the rookie Read, who is actually three years older than the third-year veteran Benn, who defied expectations that were unexpectedly raised by Flyers teammate Claude Giroux. In the moments leading up to the competition, Giroux tweeted a prediction that Read would hit four targets in his first four attempts.
"I was right next to him when he tweeted that. I disappointed him, I guess," Read joked about Giroux, who was selected by Team Alfredsson to be the designated passer as Read fired away. "I wish he was passing the puck a little bit better. I got a couple of rollers from him, but it was fun. He was just trying to have fun with it."

In the end, the event belonged to Benn, who may now have to live up to his newfound reputation as the League's most accurate shooter.

"I wouldn't call it my forte, but it's something I worked on in the garage back home and on the ice and after practice," said Benn. "You just try to have fun with it and try to hit your spots."

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