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Lundqvist a key to SuperSkills win

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers rookie Derek Stepan nearly scored on Blueshirts goaltender Henrik Lundqvist during the Elimination Shootout. Stepan got Lundqvist to go down to the ice early, but his shot hit the crossbar.

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Rangers fans have known for six seasons just how effective goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is in shootouts, so it was no surprise that Lundqvist's shootout shutdown ability helped carry Team Staal to victory in the NHL SuperSkills event on Saturday night at Raleigh, N.C.

Participating in the evening-ending Elimination Shootout, Lundqvist stopped 10 of 11 shooters he faced for the best save percentage of any of the six participating goaltenders. The only player to score on Lundqvist, the NHL's all-time shootout king, was Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis, who beat the Rangers goalie with a backhand.

With each goal worth one standings point in the Elimination Shootout, goaltending was crucial in the final event, and it carried Team Staal to a 33-22 victory on the night.

The winners -- captained by Carolina Hurricanes star Eric Staal -- had a 25-15 lead entering the Elimination Shootout and held on for the win by outscoring Team Lidstrom 8-7 in the shootout. Anaheim's Corey Perry of Team Staal ended up as the overall winner and last player standing, because he was the only one to score in all three rounds.

None of Lundqvist's 10 denials was more dramatic than a stop on Rangers teammate Derek Stepan, the second shooter to go up against Lundqvist in the opening round.

Stepan, one of the six rookies competing for Team Lidstrom, actually beat Lundqvist with his patient deke move, but he hit the crossbar with his shot up over the Blueshirts netminder. Both players seemed to have fun with the moment.

In addition to what happened to Stepan, Lundqvist made saves against Dallas' Loui Eriksson and Brad Richards, Minnesota's Brent Burns, Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith, Tampa Bay sniper Steven Stamkos, Los Angeles' Anze Kopitar, Chicago's Patrick Kane, Colorado's Kevin Shattenkirk, and Minnesota's Martin Havlat.

Rangers defenseman Marc Staal competes in the stickhandling portion of the Skills Challenge Relay on Saturday night. The SuperSkills appearance was the first of the 24-year-old Staal's pro hockey career.
Also on the winning side Saturday was Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, who was stopped by Team Lidstrom goalie Jonas Hiller in the first round of the Elimination Shootout. Staal also took part in the Fastest Skater event that opened the night -- one of six overall competitions.

During the Fastest Skater event, Staal lined up against Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene as the final skaters in the first round. As he was taking his lap around the ice, Staal's timer malfunctioned, so his actual time was never shown on the scoreboard. Duchene, however, won the event by a few strides, finishing with a time of 14.779 seconds. Duchene's time didn't qualify him for the finals of the event, where rookie Michael Grabner of the Islanders beat fellow rookie Taylor Hall of Edmonton to give Team Staal a an overall SuperSkills lead it would never relinquish.

The evening's second event, the Breakaway Challenge, was also won by Team Staal, as fans voted Washington's Alex Ovechkin's goal against Marc-Andre Fleury as the most stylish and creative breakaway goal.

No Rangers participated in the Breakaway Challenge, but Stepan was in the night's third event, the Accuracy Shooting competition. Going head-to-head against rookie goal-scoring leader Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks, Stepan broke all four of the targets, but his time was not as fast as Couture's 12.4 seconds, and Couture earned the standings point. Team Staal won the accuracy event 6-2.

Up fourth was the Skills Challenge relay, a multi-player event in which Marc Staal represented his team in the stickhandling portion of the second heat. Unfortunately, Staal's group, which included Kris Letang, Mike Green, Claude Giroux, Jamie McBain, David Backes, and Jeff Skinner, came up with a total time of 2:34 for their combined one-timers, passes, puck-control, stickhandling and shooting accuracy drills and did not earn a standings point.

The fifth event, the Hardest Shot competition, was won for the fourth year in a row by Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara, another member of Team Staal. Chara broke his own SuperSkills record with a 105.9 mph shot to defeat She Weber in the final. No Rangers took part in the event, which set the stage for the Elimination Shootout, where Lundqvist dominated among the goalies.

Stepan's All-Star Weekend came to an end after the SuperSkills, because the invited rookies were only taking part in the Saturdayportion of the All-Star festivities. Staal and Lundqvist return to the RBC Center Ice on Sunday at 4 p.m. to skate for Team Staal in the NHL All-Star Game.
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