On a team headlined by Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and coach Wayne Gretzky, it was the underrated players that led the Metropolitan Division to a win in the 2017 NHL All-Star Game.
The Metropolitan took down the Atlantic and Pacific divisions in the 3-on-3 tournament on Sunday in Los Angeles to take home the $1 million prize, to be split between each of the team’s players.
Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson finished with five points and three goals in his All-Star Game debut. Simmonds finished with two goals and an assist. Tyler Seguin led the Central Division with two points, Nikita Kucherov and Vincent Trocheck both finished with four for the Atlantic, and Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau led the Pacific with five points.
Braden Holtby was the winning goalie for the Metro in the final.
Central vs. Pacific
To the delight of the home crowd, the Pacific opened the scoring first. Gaudreau dished to Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler on a 2-on-1 to give the Pacific an early 1-0 lead. The conflicted L.A. fans got to cheer again a minute later when Jeff Carter scored.
The Central, frankly, looked lifeless. But Jonathan Toews finally broke through before the first stoppage, ripping a snapshot over Mike Smith’s left shoulder to make it 2-1. Connor McDavid, Drew Doughty, and Brent Burns started piling on, and the Pacific entered intermission up 5-1.
Boudreau on Canadian TV: "I'm not happy."— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) January 29, 2017
What adjustments would you like see: "Effort"
P.K. Subban came to the rescue. Sort of. Seconds after the Predators defenseman scored, Gaudreau waltzed down the other way and beat Devan Dubnyk to restore a four-goal lead. Carter and Joe Pavelski combined to make it 7-2.
I stopped counting. The Pacific won, 10-3.
Quote of weekend from Vladimir Tarasenko, when asked about the #NHLAllStar Central loss:— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 29, 2017
“I really can’t talk about this game seriously.”
Metropolitan vs. Atlantic
Nobody scored immediately in the second game, so you knew we were in for a whole different brand of hockey.
With a little more defensive play mixed in, the Metropolitan broke through first with Simmonds scoring a beautiful breakaway goal. But it was Sergei Bobrovsky making jaws drop: the Atlantic goalie pulled off a fun spin-o-rama to retrieve a puck.
Sergei Bobrovsky comes out and uses a spin-o-rama to fend off Brad Marchand pic.twitter.com/I0gDHeFKtl— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) January 29, 2017
And then Trocheck scored on him to tie it up at 1-1. So.
That’s about when everything opened up. Simmonds broke in again ...
Check out this view of Wayne Simmond's first goal, from the ref cam! pic.twitter.com/XL85ImoC5B— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 29, 2017
Wayne Simmonds fist bumps a fan pic.twitter.com/dQA3NaSqDI— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 29, 2017
... Victor Hedman scored for the Atlantic and Erik Karlsson followed through for the Metro to restore the one-goal lead.
Then, much to the delight of Blue Jackets fans everywhere, Atkinson scored his first career All-Star goal to send the game into intermission tied at 3-3. Atkinson was a late replacement for the injured Evgeni Malkin.
Dynamic Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews scored his first career All-Star goal in the opening minute of the second period. Honestly, it was the most casual goal you’ll ever see in pro hockey.
Things kept snow-balling. We’re not sure if new goalies Tuukka Rask and Holtby tried very hard. Working to confirm. John Tavares, Taylor Hall, and Seth Jones all waltzed in untouched to give the Metro a 6-4 lead. And Gretzky was so proud.
Kucherov scored his second of the game to make things interesting again.
Also, I take it back. Holtby came to play.
The Atlantic went for broke, pulling the goalie late, and ended up getting burned. The Metro wound up with a 10-6 win and a trip to the final.
Pacific vs. Metropolitan
After a lengthy intermission in which Nick Jonas mesmerized Brad Marchand ...
... the All-Star Game final got underway with plenty of scoring. In less than a minute, Pavelski and Jones had scored to knot the game at 1-1.
Both teams score on their first shot, and thus, we have more goals in 1:30 than we had in twenty minutes of the final last year. #NHLAllStar— Jewels frm the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) January 29, 2017
Of note was Connor McDavid turning Bobrovsky into a burnt slice of bacon. (I don’t know what that metaphor means.)
Connor McDavid is extremely freaking good at hockey pic.twitter.com/E3aoxqs8kA— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) January 29, 2017
And congrats to the one person who had Bo Horvat and Gaudreau making for the best combo in the tournament. Gaudreau curled around the net and found Horvat out front to give the Pacific a 3-2 lead in the final two minutes of the first period.
Ryan Kesler pulled off a veteran move to extend the home team’s lead, banking it off a defender and in.
But Gretzky challenged it for offsides and won! Because All-Star Games must be realistic.
And then Atkinson finished off his hat trick to tie the game up with minutes to spare. Quite a night for a replacement! It was Simmonds with the game-winner, as Holtby and company shut down the Pacific in the waning seconds to secure the win.