Ovechkin, Chara shine at NHL Super Skills
Alex Ovechkin won his third straight breakaway challenge and Zdeno Chara broke his own 2-year-old record for the hardest shot in the NHL's Super Skills competition Saturday night.
They helped lead Team Staal to a 33-22 victory over Team Lidstrom on Saturday night in the prelude to the All-Star game.
The young Washington Capitals star came up with a few nifty moves to win hockey's equivalent of the slam dunk contest — most notably, flipping his stick and bringing the puck in with the knob before flipping it back and beating a sprawled-out Marc-Andre Fleury of Pittsburgh.
Ovechkin received 38.5 percent of the fan voting via text messaging. Montreal's P.K. Subban had 21.3 percent.
The changes in the All-Star roster format meant a fresh look for the skills competition, too. Captains Eric Staal of Carolina and Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit chose up the sides for teams that carry their names during a televised 18-round draft one night earlier.
Players earned team points by winning preliminary heats and finals in some contests; by placing first, second or third in others or by scoring goals in the end-of-the-night elimination shootout.
Chara set the hardest-shot record with a 105.9 mph slap shot in the final of that competition. In addition to that blast and Ovechkin's breakaway win, Team Staal also produced winners in the competitions for fastest skater (the Islanders' Michael Grabner), accuracy (Vancouver's Daniel Sedin) and the shootout (Anaheim's Corey Perry). Team Lidstrom's only victory came in the skills challenge relay.
Many of the oohs and aahs were reserved for the breakaway challenge, the one event that's all about style and not scoring.
Subban opened with a blatant attempt to curry favor with the home folks, pulling on the jersey of Carolina rookie Jeff Skinner — and that move was met with earsplitting delight from the rowdy Caniacs.
Perry skated in on Fleury while carrying the puck on his raised stick — as if he were playing lacrosse. Team Lidstrom's Anze Kopitar tried to kick the puck onto his stick as he neared Carey Price. And Ovechkin flipped the puck up with his stick and swung at it like a baseball player.
Chara also brought the RBC Center crowd to its feet in the final of the hardest-shot contest, breaking the record he set at the most recent skills competition in Montreal in 2009 and defeating Nashville's Shea Weber, who hit 104.8 mph on the radar gun in the preliminary round but topped out at 103.4 mph in the final.
The six goalies repeatedly came up big in the night's final event, the score-or-you're-done shootout. Only two skaters — Perry and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis of Team Lidstrom — made it through two rounds.
Perry went first in Round 3 and his shot got by Tim Thomas and ricocheted in off the crossbar for his third goal of the event. That put the pressure on St. Louis, who faced Carolina's Cam Ward. St. Louis tried a spin-around backhand and Ward stuffed him to cheers from the hometown crowd.
One of Team Lidstrom's two eight-man entries claimed the relay competition, completing a gauntlet of shooting, skating and stickhandling in 2 minutes, 9 seconds.
That lineup had Lidstrom, Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson firing one-timers passed to them by rookie Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Henrik Sedin shooting into a miniature net, St. Louis navigating the cones, Matt Duchesne completing the stick-work drill and Jonathan Toews knocking out four targets.
Daniel Sedin needed just four shots to hit the four corner targets in 7.3 seconds in the accuracy competition. He then topped Patrick Kane in the final, taking care of the targets in 8.9 seconds.
Grabner won the fastest skater competition that opened the evening by winning a final runoff of rookies. He raced around the rink in 14.2 seconds in the final to beat Edmonton's Taylor Hall (14.7 seconds).