RALEIGH — Team Lidstrom defeated Team Staal 11-10 tonight in the 58th NHL All-Star Game in front of a sold out crowd at the RBC Center to conclude the weekend festivities.
Team Staal took a 4-0 lead in the first period, but Team Lidstrom prevailed in the end, scoring seven of the last eleven goals.
Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Sharp was named the game’s most valuable player. Sharp had a goal and two assists in the contest.
One of the benefits of the All-Star Game for the players is the opportunity to relax and take a break from the daily grind of the regular season. While it can be refreshing to take the ice in a no-pressure environment, the players acknowledge that a certain level of effort is required.
“I like to have fun at these things,” said Bruin defenseman Zdeno Chara. “I enjoy it, but at the same time, when it comes down to showing what you have, you have to sell it. You have to compete.”
One player who was happy to take a break from the competitive atmosphere is Thrasher defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. The former Stanley Cup champion currently leads his team in goals (16), but has struggled as of late. “Big Buff” hasn’t registered a point in his past ten games, and has was a minus-5 during that span.
While Sunday’s game may not be count, Byfuglien got back to his scoring ways, lighting the lamp late in the first period. Former teammates Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith assisted on the goal.
“It feels good just to go out there and joke around with everyone,” Byfuglien said. “I definitely enjoyed it.”
One of the biggest storylines from the game was the matchup between Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Sunday marked the first time the two Swedish twins had ever played against each other. Neither scored a goal, but Henrik outplayed his brother, tallying two assists compared to Daniel’s one.
As expected, the RBC Center was filled to capacity. Whenever Team Staal scored, the greater part of the 18,680 fans in attendance rose in celebration.
“The fans were tremendous,” Hurricane goaltender Cam Ward said about the hometown crowd. “I think [the players] are gong to go home with a different perspective on Raleigh.”
After failing to convert on his first several scoring chances, Staal netted two goals in the third period.
“I was glad to be able to get one through [Tim] Thomas there,” said Staal. “It was fun.”
In a rare All-Star Game occurrence, play was stopped for a penalty. The call was on Alex Ovechkin, who threw his stick at Matt Duchene in hopes of derailing a scoring chance. Duchene was awarded a penalty shot, but failed to convert. Ovechkin, who is known for his humor and eccentricity, drew laughs from the crowd for this particular stunt.
While the 2011 All-Star Game saw a lot of scoring, the game was won with defense. The pairing of Lidstrom and Shea Weber was dominant all night, as both were on the ice for eight of their team’s eleven goals. The two were a combined plus-13.
Weber may not have been named MVP, but he was arguably the best player in this game. With a plus-6 rating and four assists, the towering defenseman dominated at both ends of the ice.
“I just tried to steal pluses out there,” said Weber. “I just wanted to have fun.”
Due to lackadaisical and nonphysical play, the NHL All-Star game generally sees a lot of offense. This can be frustrating for goaltenders, who have to deal with constant breakaways and odd man rushes.
“You can’t take it too seriously,” Jonas Hiller said with a smile. “I try to tell myself not to get mad when I get scored on, but it didn’t really work.”
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who is on pace to break the record for best save percentage of all-time in a single season, picked up his third consecutive victory in the All-Star Game.
The two teams were picked in a fantasy draft this year, something that has never been done before in an All-Star game. After testing this new idea out, the players seemed to enjoy it.
“I can see us doing it again. I think it makes the game a little more competitive,” said Lightning star Steven Stamkos. “I think the fans enjoyed it.”
After three periods, six goaltenders, and 21 goals, the 2011 All-Star Game came to an end.
While Team Staal came up short of a victory, the fans at the RBC Center rose to their feet after the final buzzer to applaud the efforts of the NHL’s finest.
“It was incredible,” said Staal about the weekend. “I thought the atmosphere, especially the start, it was awesome.”
The All-Star break will come to an end on Tuesday when the regular season schedule resumes.