James Neal scored two goals, and Roman Josi added a tally for the Central Division All-Stars, as they fell 9-6 to the Pacific Division in the second semifinal of Sunday’s 3-on-3 NHL All-Star Tournament in Nashville.
Neal and Josi, along with fellow Nashville Predators teammates Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne, all factored into Sunday’s contest, with even Rinne picking up an assist in the game.
“It was a great experience and a lot of fun,” Rinne said. “You get competitive out there, and you want to win the game, but it was still a lot of fun.”
“We are very fortunate to be here on behalf of the Nashville Predators,” Weber said of representing the home club. “To do it for everyone, that was cool.”
Neal’s first goal came 26 seconds into the game on a feed from Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene. Weber picked up the secondary assist on the first Neal tally, and the line on his second marker read exactly the same, with the trio of Weber, Duchene and Neal hooking up once more at 8:01.
“We had a great goal,” Duchene said. “It would have been great to get Neal a hat trick in front of the hometown, but we did our best, and it was nice to get a couple.”
Rinne’s assist came on a Patrick Kane goal, a memorable sequence that began when Pacific Division Captain John Scott knocked Kane off the puck to skate in on Rinne who made the save. The Preds netminder then found Stars forward Jamie Benn, who fed Kane for the goal. Kane then looked for revenge on Scott and partook in a playful scrap with the 6-foot-8 forward, to the delight of the enthusiastic Bridgestone Arena crowd.
“I thought Kane did a pretty good job of hanging in there,” Benn laughed. “It was a fun game to be a part of, and I’ve been taking this whole thing in this weekend. It’s probably John Scott’s hit or fight that will highlight it.”
Josi’s goal came with less than two minutes remaining in the game, with Neal adding an assist for his third point of the outing, tied with Stars forward Tyler Seguin for the team lead.
"It was a lot of fun and playing in Nashville was great,” Josi, a first-time All-Star said. “The whole weekend was a great experience."
A late addition to the weekend, Neal reiterated his affection for Preds fans and the city of Nashville embracing him since his arrival in the summer of 2014. This weekend’s All-Star experience was one more moment for Neal to file away as proud resident of Music City.
“Right from Day One in being traded to Nashville, I’ve been getting texts from all these guys and them welcoming me into the Predators family has been awesome right from Day One,” Neal said. “They are all great guys. I couldn’t be happier to be named to the All-Star Game, especially here in Nashville. I found out after the Vancouver game, and I was really excited to have my family come down and be a part of it. It’s been an unbelievable weekend, and it was a ton of fun.”
In the Championship Game, The Pacific Division All-Stars came away with a 1-0 victory on the heels of a shutout from Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick and Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson in the tournament finale on Sunday. Pacific Division Captain John Scott was named NHL All-Star Game MVP, as he and his division teammates won a pot of $1 million as the victors of the 3-on-3 tournament.
The Atlantic Division topped the Metropolitan Division in the first semifinal by a 4-3 final, thanks in part to a game winner from Montreal’s P.K. Subban and three assists from Detroit rookie Dylan Larkin.