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Lundqvist helps East win NHL All-Star Game

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist makes one of his 15 stops for the Eastern Conference All-Stars during the second period of Sunday night's NHL All-Star Game in Montreal.

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Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said his primary goal for his first NHL All-Star Game was to enjoy the experience. Being a part of the winning Eastern Conference team on Sunday evening in Montreal likely went a long way toward ensuring the weekend was an enjoyable one.

Lundqvist’s Eastern Conference All-Stars defeated the Western Conference All-Stars 12-11 in an overtime shootout, with Alex Kovalev and Alexander Ovechkin scoring the only goals in the shootout to give the East a hard-fought victory.

Kovalev, a former Rangers first-round draft pick and member of the 1994 Stanley Cup champions, also scored two goals in regulation to earn MVP honors. Representing the hometown Montreal Canadiens, he was a clear fan favorite all night and was certainly a popular choice with the locals for MVP.

The 22 goals scored in the game's 60 regulation minutes tied for the second-highest total in All-Star Game history and was only four goals off the record of 26 set in the 2001 game at Denver.

Also scoring for the Eastern Conference were Washington’s Ovechkin, Carolina’s Eric Staal, the older brother of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov, Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis (twice), New Jersey’s Zach Parise, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Ottawa’s Dany Heatley, and Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.

Lundqvist knew going into his first NHL All-Star Game that there was a strong chance he would see a lot of shots. After all, the All-Stars are rarely known for playing much defense, and the group of players who seem to have the least fun are usually the goaltenders.

Indeed, Lundqvist got the full experience of life as an All-Star goalie at the Bell Centre, facing 21 shots in just 20 minutes of work. The Rangers netminder, the first Blueshirts goalie to appear in an All-Star Game since Mike Richter in 2000, played the entire second period. He was impressive in stopping 15 of the Western Conference All-Stars’ shots, but – as is always the case in the All-Star Game – pucks were bound to get by him.

Entering the game with his Eastern Conference All-Star squad leading 4-2, Lundqvist surrendered six second-period goals in a head-to-head matchup with Niklas Backstrom, who allowed four goals of his own for an 8-8 tie through two periods. Backstrom, a fellow Swede, also saw 21 shots in the game.

The 21 shots Lundqvist and Backstrom each faced were just two shy of the All-Star Game record for shots in a period, set by the World All-Stars in 2001.

Lundqvist was victimized most by Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray, a former Canadiens star who received a warm welcome back at the Bell Centre. Souray scored a pair of goals against Lundqvist, who also denied Souray on another tough shot between the two goals. Souray was the first All-Star to beat Lundqvist, scoring off the left post at 3:29 of the middle period. He added his second tally at the 10:34 mark, taking a perfect pass from Joe Thornton, who was stationed behind the net, as he drove down the slot.

San Jose’s Dan Boyle, Columbus’ Rick Nash, Colorado’s Milan Hejduk, and Calgary’s Jarome Iginla also scored against Lundqvist. Nash was the only one to score on a breakaway, as all the other goals came in various degrees of traffic.

Lundqvist made his finest save of the game at the 17:47 mark of the middle period, diving back across his crease from his right to left to deny Chicago’s Patrick Kane, who was all alone in front. The big save came as the last of four consecutive stops that Lundqvist made against Kane and his Blackhawks teammate Jonathan Toews.

Kane would later score a third-period goal that put the West up 11-10 in the closing minutes before Bouwmeester foced the overtime by scoring with 3:39 to go.

Boston goalie Tim Thomas played the third period for the East and was outstanding. He also stopped both Shane Doan and Rick Nash in the shootout, enabling Ovechkin to clinch the win by beating Roberto Luongo at the start of the shootout’s final round.

Lundqvist won't have to wait long before getting back into a more defensive-minded atmosphere, as the Blueshirts will return to Madison Square Garden to face Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
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