RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Alex Ovechkin took care of the flash and Zdeno Chara brought the blast. Together, they helped make Eric Staal look like a pretty shrewd general manager.
Ovechkin won his third straight breakaway challenge, Chara broke his own 2-year-old record for the hardest shot and players from the All-Star team Staal put together won five of six events Saturday night in the NHL's SuperSkills competition.
In this prelude to an All-Star game like none other, Staal's team led from start to finish in a 33-22 victory over Team Lidstrom.
"I thought we did pretty good" choosing the team, Staal said. "Obviously, we're going to see (Sunday) during the game, but tonight, it worked out with some good wins in some of the events."
The changes in the All-Star roster format meant a fresh look for the skills competition, too.
The Carolina captain and Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit chose up the sides for teams that carry their names one night earlier during a televised 18-round draft. Players earned team points in the skills competition by winning preliminary heats and finals in some contests; by placing first, second or third in others or by scoring goals in the elimination shootout.
Ovechkin, the 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.
"I just came up with that," said Ovechkin, who received 38.5 percent of the fan voting via text messaging. Fellow Team Staal member P.K. Subban of Montreal had 21.3 percent.
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.
"We'll let them have the skills competition, and we'll try to take the game tomorrow," quipped Team Lidstrom's Patrick Kane. "I think a couple years down the road, you won't even know if you won or lost the skills competition. Two years ago in Montreal, I don't know if we won or lost. It's all about the memories. It's all about fun."
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. Subban later admitted the idea came from San Jose's Dan Boyle.
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