COLUMBUS – Fun.
It’s the word that came to mind most often when Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons described his experience at All-Star Weekend in Columbus.
The three days of festivities wrapped up Sunday with the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Nationwide Arena, where Team Toews downed Girgensons and Team Foligno 17-12 in the highest-scoring game in NHL All-Star Game history.
Of favorite moments throughout the weekend, Girgensons put playing in the All-Star Game itself at the top of the list. The collection of talent in this one game alone was, by design, pretty astounding.
“It was just fun seeing all the guys doing some cool stuff and seeing all the goals,” he said. “It’s unbelievable skill out there. You don’t see that every game, but they’re in the League so you kind of see them every day as well.”
The Latvian native skated on a line with Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at center and Vancouver’s Radim Vrbata at right wing. Girgensons finished his first All-Star Game with three shots on goal and 13:09 of ice time.
Team Foligno’s Ryan Johansen (CBJ) won the MVP Award with two goals and two assists. Jakub Voracek (PHI) had a game-high six points (3+3) for Team Toews and John Tavares (NYI) also had a big night for Team Toews, scoring four goals.
Team Toews outshot Team Foligno 47-45.
“If I was a goalie in this game, I would be – I don’t know – not happy,” Girgensons said.
Girgensons was on the ice for only a few seconds before Vrbata converted on a breakaway pass from Nugent-Hopkins to open the scoring 3:09 into the contest. The play happened while Team Foligno was in the middle of a line change.
“I was just by the bench so I just stood there and got the plus,” he said.
On the line’s next shift midway through the period, Nugent-Hopkins was able to spring Girgensons for a breakaway, but Girgensons lost the puck while making his move on Roberto Luongo.
The line generated another goal when Vrbata and Nugent-Hopkins worked the puck to defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in the slot to tie the game 3-3 with 5:12 remaining.
The teams skated into the dressing room deadlocked at 4.
The game continued to open up in the second period. With Girgensons on the ice, Team Toews scored to take a 7-6 lead. Rick Nash, much to the chagrin of the hometown crowd, buried a shot in front, beating Marc-Andre Fleury. That goal opened a 4-0 run for Team Toews before Nick Foligno scored with 8:01 to go to make it 10-7.
During the second period, Girgensons’ line was able to generate some scoring chances with Vrbata having two great looks.
Team Toews held a three-goal lead heading into the third period, leading 11-8 and their scoring prowess continued into the third period, besting Team Foligno 6-4 in the final 20 minutes.
On the whole, Girgensons enjoyed being able to take part in the events Columbus had to offer around the city.
“It was just a lot of fun. You try to get as much [time] as you can to see as much stuff as you can and have fun,” he said. “The NHL fans here did an unbelievable job of making this a really nice event.”
The Sabres will be back at practice Monday before heading to Calgary for a four-game road trip that starts Tuesday night against the Flames at 9 p.m. EST on MSG-B and Bell. The Tops Gamenight pregame show will begin at 8:30 p.m. and the game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
Girgensons is ready to get back to work and hopes to carry some of the experiences of the weekend with him.
“It was just a good kind of small vacation,” he said. “It gives you a little more extra energy, just with the good vibes around here.”