~ Photo credit: NHL.com
~ By Pearl Allison Lo
~ Nikita Kucherov, one of four Tampa Bay Lightning players represented, scored the first hat trick of the new format, and the Pacific Division beat the Atlantic 5-2 Sunday.
Kucherov, who came into the game with a regular season slump, ended the second semifinal game to hats on the ice in front of his home fans.
The Pacific Division lost to the Metropolitan Division in 2017 by a score of 4-3. This time, they got the $1 million dollar prize as they won both of their games 5-2. All three games were decided by three.
Neon colors connected the four teams. The jerseys described as futuristic, the Central and the Pacific wore orange and the Metropolitan and the Atlantic going with yellow.
First-time rookie All-Star Brock Boeser from the Vancouver Canucks won the MVP and a Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid. He scored in both his games, with the game-winner in the first and added an assist in the second.
The All-Star players hit a lot metal throughout the games, but most in the first game.
In the final, the Pacific scored all three of their goals in the first half and never trailed.
Rickard Rakell (Pacific) had two goals and an assist, Mike Green (Atlantic) had two goals, the Pacific’s Johnny Gaudreau and Drew Doughty scored and Brad Marchand (Atlantic) and Anze Kopitar (Pacific) each had two assists.
All three games’ first goal came with less than two minutes of start time, Rakell’s the fastest at 50 seconds into a wide-open left side.
Boeser made it 2-0 with the rebound off Gaudreau’s shot at 5:05.
Green, in his first All-Star appearance since 2011, got the Atlantic on the board at 6:08 when he scored from the faceoff circle.
Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was able to fend off a Pacific Captain Connor McDavid breakaway.
Doughty got a direct assist from Los Angeles Kings teammate Kopitar as he scored down the slot with the help of Auston Matthews’ screen at 8:35.
The Pacific got their biggest lead when Gaudreau got his own goal to make it 4-1.
The Atlantic went without a shot on goal from Green’s first goal to right before Green’s second goal when Atlantic Captain Steven Stamkos from Tampa had a shot on goal. Green scored right above Mike Smith’s glove at 3:26.
Rakell brought the game full circle when he scored his second with a patient shot to the top right of the net against Carey Price at 7:24.
The first game pitted Team Black (Central) versus White (Pacific). Although the Central had a 7-2 shot advantage at one point, the Pacific won for the third time in as many years, by a 5-2 advantage.
Team Pacific scored all five of their goals in the second half.
James Neal (Central) had two goals, Nathan MacKinnon (Central) and San Jose Sharks’ Brent Burns (Pacific) had a goal and assist, Doughty, Central Captain P.K. Subban and Boeser also scored and McDavid had four assists along with a game-high +4 and four takeaways.
MacKinnon had the game’s first shot and first goal for the Central as he scored almost straightaway at 1:47. His goal was aided by Blake Wheeler against Marc-Andre Fleury.
Burns had two missed shots off the goalpost one second away.
Nearing first half end, McDavid picked up a turnover and missed the net, followed by a shot two seconds later. Less than 20 seconds later, Pekka Rinne made a save with McDavid’s shot going over his back.
Doughty tied the game on a breakaway at 4:13. His goal was helped by McDavid against Connor Hellebuyck.
The Pacific started outshooting the Central after and Neal gave the Pacific their first lead at 6:57. Burns got the takeaway and passed across to McDavid.
All the following goals came in quick succession, under a minute of each other.
Subban scored the Central’s last goal, on a breakaway against Smith to retie the game.
Boeser and Burns’ goals were the quickest of Game #1, coming within 24 seconds of each other. Burns’ was the first of two empty netters. Regarding his goal, Burns commented, “I was trying to make a move, lost the puck and it went in.”
Neal scored the last goal of the game at 9:18 to seal the win.
Team Metropolitan (gray) faced off versus Team Atlantic (dark blue), with the Atlantic taking the game in the second half, 7-4, with four straight goals, the first one establishing the matchup’s third tie.
The Atlantic’s Jack Eichel had a goal and two assists. Matthews, Brayden Point (Tampa) and Marchand each had a goal and assist. Erik Karlsson had three assists.
The Metropolitan’s Sidney Crosby, Captain Alex Ovechkin, Claude Giroux and Kris Letang scored.
Game #2 had a more active first half in terms of scoring than Game #1. Each team traded goals for the most part.
Crosby scored with help from Ovechkin at 1:09. Crosby replied, “Right after that goal, emotions start.”
The shot advantage started out more even until the Metropolitan shot advantage got to 8-2. Crosby then had two shots followed by Noah Hanifin.
Henrik Lundquist missed the second shot as Matthews scored at 5:30. Two seconds before the goal, Lundqvist saved Eichel’s wrist shot. Matthews was helped by Eichel and Aleksander Barkov.
Giroux gave the Metropolitan back a 2-1 lead on another breakaway after faking a pass to Brian Boyle.
Ovechkin then broke the back-and-forth between the teams with his own goal at 8:16.
The Atlantic was quick to respond. 11 seconds later, Kucherov got his first as the puck slid next to Lundqvist’s jersey.
Kucherov got his second in a row at 2:12 of the second half, stringing together the Atlantic’s first two goals. It came by way of a spin-o-rama pass from Kucherov to Eichel and then a behind-the-back pass back to Kucherov.
Kris Letang made it 4-3 at 3:17 and then the Atlantic went off to the races with their four straight goals, starting with Point at 4:33 off Braden Holtby.
Actually, if it was not for an offsides challenge that the Atlantic won, the Metropolitan would have had another goal from Erik Karlsson.
Eichel scored at 6:40, Marchand received initial cheers for his goal at 7:41 and Kucherov finished at 7:56.
Game notes: Burns also had an assist in the Final.