NASHVILLE — John Scott‘s surreal, did-that-really-happen night might have been the most memorable part of the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game, but it wasn’t the only unpredictable storyline that played out at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday.
The championship game between the Pacific Division and Atlantic Division All-Stars featured a level of intensity, of competition, that was more befitting a regular-season game than a midseason exhibition.
The Pacific won the championship and the $1 million prize pool with a 1-0 victory. Corey Perry‘s goal at 13:38 was the difference, and goalies John Gibson and Jonathan Quick combined for a 17-save shutout.
Scott, the unlikeliest of captains for the Pacific Division, here by virtue of the online fan vote, won the most valuable player award in another fan vote after he scored two goals in a 9-6 victory against the Central Division in the semifinal.
“I thought I would be in the background and enjoy (All-Star Weekend) from behind the scenes, and it definitely didn’t turn out that way,” Scott said. “I keep saying it was a whirlwind, went by so fast. I loved it. It was probably the coolest thing I’ve done in hockey, for sure.”
The reviews for the 3-on-3 All-Star Game format were also glowing. The players liked having the extra space to let their skill shine. It seemed like a slow build to an intense finish too.
“All the boys in here were dripping with sweat, and it felt good,” Burns said.
The Atlantic Division got to the 20-minute championship with a 4-3 win against the Metropolitan Division. Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop made a save on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang‘s breakaway in the final minute to preserve the victory.
The scoring and pace picked up in the second game as the Pacific Division and Central Division All-Stars combined for 15 goals, including two each for Scott, Vancouver Canucks left wing Daniel Sedin, Edmonton Oilers left wing Taylor Hall and Nashville Predators right wing James Neal.
The goalies dominated the championship game, which was played more at a regular-season pace than any recent All-Star Game, a big reason why the League went to the 3-on-3 format and added the prize money.
“Oh, for sure (the intensity picked up),” Perry said. “You look at that last shift, they were trying to score a goal for sure. When you have guys that want to win and are competitive hockey players, you want to go out and you want to perform. You don’t want to look bad.”
Perry looked good in breaking the scoreless tie with a low, far-side wrist shot from the right circle that eluded Bishop’s stick and blocker. Sedin delivered the pass to Perry, who got the puck at the blue line.
Perry thought he gave the Pacific a 2-0 lead at 17:07, but his goal was waived off on a coach’s challenge because Hall was guilty of goalie interference.
The fact that it took more than 13 minutes for a goal in the championship game was surprising both for the fact that it was vastly different from the first two games (combined 22 goals) and because it went against the percentage of overtime goals being scored this season.
The League introduced the 3-on-3 overtime format this season and has seen a significant rise in overtime goals.
Of the 171 games that have gone to overtime this season, 109 have been decided in the extra period (63.7 percent). Last season, using a 4-on-4 format, 44.4 percent of games that extended past regulation ended in overtime (136 of 306).
“Well, the goalies were so good,” Perry said. “You look around and there’s a lot of firepower on both teams, and it just tells you how good the goalies are nowadays.
“Guys were playing man on man, playing tight. It was tough to get to the net.”
“I probably could have had about four in the first few minutes, but Luongo was there,” Pavelski said. “His head was there and his nob was there. That’s how it works.”
“You look around, when you step on the ice there’s only five other guys out there and there’s a lot of skill, so you have to be kind of cautious of who is out there,” Pavelski said. “You definitely saw as the game time wound down a bit, it definitely got a little more intense. It brought it up.”
After Scott got the hero’s lift off the ice by his Pacific teammates, Burns summed up the weekend.
“It was great,” he said. “The city of Nashville did themselves proud. It was unbelievable here. The NHL did a great job. From the guys we’ve been hanging around with and talking to, it’s just been an unbelievable weekend all around. The food has been great. The people have been awesome. I know I see some guys that aren’t sleeping a lot in here because they’re having a fun time at night too. It’s not just us; it’s everybody that has been a part of it.”