ATLANTA -- Alex Ovechkin's move was a little bit baseball, a
little bit hockey.
It was a big whiff -- but still a big hit.
Ovechkin flipped the puck off his stick, took a mighty swing and
missed. Ilya Kovalchuk attempted a shot while sliding along on his
knees. Marian Gaborik swooped behind the net and tried to stuff one
inside the post.
None of them scored.
That wasn't the point.
The final event of the NHL's SuperSkills competition was all
about showing off -- hockey's version of the slam-dunk contest -- and
the league's most creative players unveiled some one-night-only
moves Saturday night.
The Eastern Conference rallied for a 9-6 victory over the West
in this preview to the All-Star Game, but no one really cared about
the score. Heck, even the NHL had it wrong for a while before
switching a point from one side to the other.
Ovechkin, who recently agreed to a 13-year, $124 million
megacontract with Washington, did his best to show he was worth all
After his first swing and a miss, the 22-year-old Russian tried
an even bolder move. He scooped the puck off the ice, flipped it
into the air, did a complete spin and took another baseball swing.
Strike two, but he still drew big points from the celebrity
panel that included former slam-dunk champion Dominique Wilkins,
now an executive with the Atlanta Hawks, retired Thrashers captain
Scott Mellanby, broadcaster Bill Clement, and actor Taylor Kitsch.
Ovechkin wasn't the only East player taking individual honors in
the skills competition. Toronto's Tomas Kaberle was the most
accurate shooter and Boston's Zdeno Chara fired the hardest shot at
103.1 mph before Ovechkin took the breakaway challenge, a shootout
with a twist.
Scoring didn't really matter. One was going for style points.
"It was a baseball move and a little bit of hockey," Ovechkin
said. "I like it, but I didn't score. I'm disappointed."
Fancy shooting by New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro
helped the East win the obstacle course, the first competition. He
capped the second round by shooting two pucks the length of the ice
into the net.
Later, while trying to stop Gaborik's around-the-net move,
DiPietro tweaked his hip and spent the rest of the competition
"You sit around for that long and try to come out there and
throw the splits around and everything else, it's a little hard on
the body," he said. "But I feel all right."
DiPietro, who had hip surgery last May, insisted he'll be able
to play in Sunday's game.
Edmonton's Shawn Horcoff won the fastest skater competition for
the Western Conference, beating Kovalchuk to earn a spot in the
final against Buffalo's Brian Campbell, who opened by winning a
sprint against Chicago's Duncan Keith.
Horcoff got a great start in the final and won by nearly a
There appeared to be some confusion in the judging for the
Horcoff-Kovalchuk race. The hometown favorite clearly beat Horcoff
from the goal line to the opposite blue line, and the Atlanta
forward lined up for an apparent rematch as fans chanted "Kovy!
Ultimately, there was no rematch and Horcoff was ruled the
Calgary's Dion Phaneuf saved the West in the elimination
shootout. Phaneuf was the only one of his conference's shooters to
score in the first three rounds, and the New York Rangers' Scott Gomez, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Philadelphia's Kimmo Timonen
advanced from the East.
In the elimination round, however, Phaneuf scored against Boston
goalie Tim Thomas, who was left spinning like a top in front of the
net. St. Louis goalie Manny Legace stopped Gomez, Malkin and
Timonen, giving the win to Phaneuf and the Western stars.
Kaberle was the East's champion in shooting accuracy, hitting
targets on eight of nine shots through three rounds. In the last
round, Kaberle obliterated the bulls-eye with his one shot after
Nashville's Jason Arnott -- the top shooter from the West -- missed.