After a thrilling Skills Competition on Saturday night, the NHL All-Star games rolled into Nashville, hosting two Conference semi-finals and a resulting final.
For the first time, the All-Star competition was formatted with 20 minute 3-on-3 games. As they won the Skills Competition, the Eastern teams – Metropolitan and Atlantic – played each other first. Then the Pacific faced-off against the Central Division team, with the final being played just after.
As the players entered onto the ice, the Nashville players – Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber, James Neal and Roman Josi – received a roaring ovation from the Bridgestone Arena, as did Pacific Division captain John Scott.
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Atlantic vs Metropolitan
The Metropolitan Division lined up with Braden Holtby net-minding the first half and Corey Schneider tending the second, their skaters lined up like this:
John Tavares – Claude Giroux – Ryan McDonagh
Evgeni Malkin – Brandon Saad – Kris Letang
Nicklas Backstrom – Evgeni Kuznetsov – Justin Faulk
The Atlantic team started with All-Star veteran Roberto Luongo in net, Ben Bishop relieving him in the second frame. They lined up as follows:
Ryan O’Reilly – Erik Karlsson – Jaromir Jagr
Patrice Bergeron – Leo Komarov – Aaron Ekblad
Steven Stamkos – Dylan Larkin – P.K. Subban
The 3-on-3 game proved to be extremely productive – goals wise – Malkin scored with just over a minute played, which Erik Karlsson responded to 2:46 minutes later, putting the puck five-hole on Braden Holtby.
Following goals from Washington’s Kuznetsov and Florida’s Jagr – and an eccentric save from Luongo to stop Malkin – the first half ended 2-2.
Geno Malkin turned on the style once again as, with just over a minute gone in the second, the big Russian scored whilst spinning around.
Just over a minute later, Ryan O’Reilly showed off his assist skills as he squared a perfect puck to meet the stick Aaron Ekblad, to tie it up at three-a-piece.
As the second half entered its final stages, the All-Star Fastest Skater record holder, Dylan Larkin, set up P.K. Subban to give the Atlantic team a 4-3 lead. Despite the Metropolitan’s pulling their keeper, they were unable to draw the score even.
Atlantic Division progressed to the final.
Pacific vs Central
The moment that the crowd had been waiting for, to see their Nashville Predator stars in action, and big John Scott to get out on the All-Star ice. Central Division came into the tournament as heavy favourites – after looking at their lines it’s not hard to see why.
Pacific Division started with LA’s Jonathan Quick in net, with John Gibson as his half time replacement. Captain John Scott got to line up with his old San Jose Sharks buddies:
Corey Perry – Drew Doughty – Daniel Sedin
Joe Pavelski – John Scott – Brent Burns
Johnny Gaudreau – Mark Giordano – Taylor Hall
Bridgestone Arena’s home side, the Central Division team, started the game with Pekka Rinne in goal and Devin Dubnyk as the second half goaltender. Two of Nashville’s three skaters teamed up on the same line:
Matt Duchene – James Neal – Shea Weber
Jamie Benn – Patrick Kane – Roman Josi
Tyler Seguin – Vladamir Tarasenko – Dustin Byfuglien
The second match-up of the tournament saw the favoured Central Division take a very early 1-0 lead, as home skater James Neal netted after 26 seconds of play.
But then, the moment that all hockey fans had been waiting for – Joe Pavelski shot the puck to Burns, who laid it off to John Scott… who scored! The 6’8’’ enforcer who the NHL tried to keep out scored the equaliser for the team he had been voted in to captain.
Bridgestone erupted as John Scott scooped the ice in celebration.
The game escalated much quicker than the first game, coming to the Pacific being 3-2 up with just under two minutes of the first half to go – goals coming from Pavelski (on a rare All-Star powerplay), James Neal (for his second) and Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau.
As Patrick Kane tried to skate out of the neutral zone, John Scott checked his old Chicago buddy to the ice – creating a very pleased roar from the crowd – Scott claimed the puck shot, but his effort was saved. Then the puck came the other way and Kane scored on a well worked pass from Jamie Benn.
Straight after the goal, Kane and Scott exchanged in a fun little scrap to the delight of the fans.
The half-time whistle blew with the score even at three each. Then the Pacific came out firing on all cylinders. With 4:28 minutes past in the second period, Sedin scored twice, Hall got one, and John Scott nailed in his second goal of the game. Pacific led 7-3 with just over a quarter of the game remaining.
Then the Central Division stars woke up. The Byfuglien – Seguin – Tarasenko line combined twice in the space of 13 seconds to pull the score back to 7-5. To stop the potential onslaught from the Central stars, keeper John Gibson pulled out a mighty toe-save to block a dead-cert goal from Tarasenko.
The save allowed Johnny Hockey to send Taylor Hall en route to scoring his second of the game, and Drew Doughty later made short work of an empty net opportunity to get his side to nine goals. Roman Josi scored a consolation goal to end the game 9-6.
Pacific progressed to the All-Star final, led by captain John Scott.
The Final: Atlantic vs Pacific
NHL All-Star 2016 tournament came down to just two teams, 22 players, and one $1,000,000 jackpot prize.
The teams played with the same lines and the same starting keepers as they did in their previous games, but after the first minute you could tell that all of the players were there to win. Both sides played far more defensively than in the semi-final contests.
In the first half Roberto Luongo and Jonathan Quick came up big, on multiple occasions, to keep their teams in the game.
Bobby Lu produces this magnificent stop on Pavelski’s effort:
Quick answered that save with a spectacular helicopter stop, flicking the puck away from the net after it had gone past him. The first half was dominated by the performances in net, and the half ended 0-0.
1:20 minutes into the second, and Johnny Gaudreau sees his shot ping off of the post – thinking that he had bested second half keeper Ben Bishop.
Just a couple of minutes later, Daniel Sedin craftily played Corey Perry in, who made no mistake and put the Pacific 1-0 up. The Western team managed to keep their strong defensive structure as John Gibson carried on where Quick left off.
With three minutes remaining Perry thought he’d scored again, but a coach’s challenge found that Taylor Hall had interfered with the keeper, so the goal did not stand.
Atlantic pulled their keeper with just over a minute to play, but it wasn’t enough. The least favoured team in the tournament won the game 1-0 with enforcer John Scott as their captain.
The Pacific players all celebrated with Scott as the crowd chanted “MVP! MVP! MVP!”
The fans got their wish – John Scott was awarded the MVP for the 2016 NHL All-Star games, tying up an incredible story of a resilient player who fought against the league to play in the All-Star games. His celebrations tell you everything you need to know about the guy.
Speaking to ESPN, John Scott said: “you can’t really write this stuff” as he beamed with pride.
It highlights the incredible show that the NHL put on for the fans in this year’s All-Star games. The 3-on-3 was a huge success, the Skills Competition was as impressive as ever and, we all got to see a true underdog story come true.
Lest we forget how the NHL has behaved towards John Scott in recent days – hopefully his performances, and huge fan following, will earn him a trade back into the League.