There was plenty of buzz inside the building for Carolina Hurricanes 18-year-old rock-star Jeff Skinner, but the second youngest player, Matt Duchene, enjoyed the experience just as much.
"I hope this is the first of many for me," said the 20-year-old Colorado Avalanche after his Team Nicklas Lidstrom escaped with an 11-10 victory over Skinner and Team Eric Staal before a satisfied crowd of 18,680 at the RBC Center on Sunday.
"Some of the older guys were saying that they did away with the young guns game because of all the young stars coming up," Duchene added.
Sunday's game was the fourth highest scoring in all-star history.
1. 26 – North America 14, World 12 in 2001 at Denver.
2. 23 – East 12, West 11 in 2009 at Montreal.
3. 22 – Wales 16, Campbell in 1993 at Montreal.
T4. 21 – Lidstrom 11, Staal 10 in 2011 at Raleigh.
T4. 21 – West 12, East 9 in 2007 at Dallas.
Duchene scored a first-period goal and was awarded the first penalty shot in NHL all-star game history after Alexander Ovechkin tossed his stick during a Duchene breakaway in the third period.
With the game tied 7-7, Ovechkin was stripped of the puck at the Team Lidstrom blue-line and Duchene was sent in alone. Ovechkin glanced at Duchene with a smile that seemed to say, "Ok, kid let’s see you perform under pressure."
Team Staal goalie Henrick Lundqvist made a blocker save on Duchene ‘s breakaway and then stuck out his left pad to foil the youngster on the penalty shot.
"I thought I had him at first and I thought I was home free, but then he kicked out his skate and got me," Duchene said. "It was a great save. He owned me all game.
"I don’t know how big a deal people made out of the penalty shot. For me, it was a fun part of the game."
With the fun over, Duchene now returns to Denver with the possibility that his idol Peter Forsberg, 37, may join the Avalanche. Duchene certainly hopes Forsberg has overcome his foot problems enough for the two to become teammates.
"Everyone hopes he’s coming back," Duchene said. "I hope he had some good skates over the weekend.
"I’ve heard about his foot injuries and how much it hurts him skating, but his skating looks great. We’ll see what happens."
The Avalanche is battling for a playoff spot in the West.
"We’re missing some experience," Duchene said. "He’ll add that. He’s a top-six guy even at 50 per cent."
Duchene lit up when he discussed Forsberg. One of the many manoeuvres he copied from Forsberg was to shield the puck with his free hand from an opponent’s stick when skating behind the net.
"I really modelled the way I play after him," Duchene said. "It’s funny to see some of the stuff that I totally copy in every game and see him do it in practice.
The new format
This year’s all-star game was still a no-hit, all-chicanery affair. But the fans oohed, awed and wowed, throughout the game. The players enjoyed the fantasy draft format in choosing the sides on Friday as well as the new events in the skills competition.
In the game, Team Lidstrom overcame a 4-0 first-period deficit and the two teams were tied 4-4 after the first period and led 7-6 following 40 minutes. After Dallas Stars forward Loui Eriksson put Team Lidstrom up 11-9 with an empty net goal, Eric Staal scored his second of the game in the final minute to make it close.
"I didn’t think there was any reason to change the format," Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "But the fact that they seemed to generate a lot of interest. I know I had fun with it. I was a little nervous going into the draft. There’s a lot of talk about being the last guy [drafted].
"But there was really no pressure at all. I think everyone had fun with it."
Sharp's parents take long road
For a player who wasn’t even on the all-star game ballot for the fan voting, all ended well for Sharp. He scored a goal and set up two others in a losing cause for Team Staal and won a car for being named the game’s MVP.
"I’m just glad I can bring the trophy home because I know that my dad and brother will be fighting over the car," Sharp said. "I think my brother Chris might win out."
The native of Thunder Bay, Ont. wanted to have a good weekend for his parents, whose connection flight out of Newark, N.J. was cancelled because of a snowstorm that paralysed the United States Eastern seaboard on Thursday. They managed to share a ride from two friendly Raleigh residents.
"I didn’t want to let them down," Sharp said. "Their flight got cancelled out of Newark, so they met some people here in Raleigh and jumped in a minivan and drove from midnight until 8 a.m., just to get here to watch the game."
Nashville Predators defenceman Shea Weber had a formidable partnership with Lidstrom. The two combined for a remarkable plus-13 rating in an all-star game.
Weber was a plus-6 and registered four assists, which matched an all-star game record for defencemen set by Ray Bourque in 1985 and one shy of Mats Naslund’s record of five for all skaters.
The new Bieber baby
At 18 years and 259 days, Skinner of Markham, Ont. became the youngest to play in an NHL all-star game and was affectionately called the Justin Bieber of hockey. Detroit Red Wings Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman had the old mark at 18 years, 267 days when he suited up for the 1984 all-star game.
The crowd rose out of their seats on every close call for Skinner around the opposition’s goal. His best chance was when he picked off a pass in his own end for a breakaway, but was foiled by Hiller on a pad save in the second period.
Skinner did pick up the second assist on Letang’s goal midway through the third period and had four shots on goal.
"Paul [Stastny] and Patrick [Kane], my linemates, were trying to get me the puck all night," he said. "Unfortunately, I couldn’t get one in. But it was fun."
When the all-star game format saw the defending Stanley Cup champs play a team that comprised of all stars from the other teams, two players younger than Skinner suited up for Stanley Cup teams. There was Toronto’s Fleming Mackell (18 years, 166 days) in 1947 and Detroit’s Larry Hillman (18 years, 239 days) in 1955.
Thomas sets record
Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas earned the win for Team Lidstrom and became the first goalie to win three consecutive all-star games. He was in goal in Montreal in 2009 and Atlanta in 2008 for the winning sides, too.
The two different teams didn’t quite make it under the salary cap in the NHL. Team Staal salaries added up to $102,231,700 US, slightly less than Team Lidstrom’s $102,675,000.
The NHL all-star game will return to Canada and be contested in Ottawa at Scotiabank Place for the first time in Senators history.
The last time the all-star game was in Canada was in Montreal in 2009.
Here were the most used line combinations and defence pairings as well as which periods the goalies played for each team:
Team Staal – Nash-E. Staal-Perry; Ovechkin-Kesler-D.Sedin; Elias-Stastny-Skinner; Giroux-Sharp-Backes; Chara-Green; Karlsson-Boyle; M. Staal-Letang; Ward (1st), Price (2nd), Lundqvist (3rd). Team Lidstrom – Stamkos-Richards-St. Louis; Briere-H. Sedin-Kane; Duchene-Kopitar-Kessel; Eriksson-Toews-Havlat; Lidstrom-Weber; Byfuglien-Keith; Yandle-Burns; Fleury (1st), Hiller (2nd), Thomas (3rd).