OTTAWA — The NHL all-star game was supposed to be all about Daniel Alfredsson and his Ottawa teammates, but it was ex-Senator Zdeno Chara who had the last laugh.
The Boston Bruins captain had the game-winner as he and another former Senator from Slovakia, Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks, scored 16 seconds apart in a six-goal third period to lead Team Chara to a 12-9 victory over Team Alfredsson 12-9 on Sunday.
“That was my first shot,” said the six-foot-nine Chara, who went in alone to snap a shot past Brian Elliott, who was bombed for six goals on 19 third-period shots. “Early on, (the game) was really loose but as we were going to the end you could see that guys wanted to win.
“That’s the way it goes some times at the all-star game.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper chatted in the stands with league commissioner Gary Bettman through much of a wide-open game. They saw Team Chara lose the lead four times only to pile up an insurmountable total in the third with goals from Phil Kessel, Jarome Iginla, Hossa, Chara, Corey Perry and the second of the game by Joffrey Lupul.
They didn’t need the notable absentees, the injured Sidney Crosby and the holdout Alex Ovechkin, to score in bunches.
Marian Gaborik had a hat-trick, while Evgeni Malkin and Patrick Kane had the other goals for Team Chara.
Alfredsson scored twice, while Jason Spezza, Henrik Sedin, John Tavares, Jason Pominville, Milan Michalek, Cluade Giroux and Daniel Sedin scored for Team Alfredsson.
Crosby is still out with head and neck injuries, while Ovechkin declined his all-star invitation after he was handed a three-game suspension for a high hit. Chicago star Jonathan Toews also missed the event with an injury.
The game was also supposed to be a celebration of the six Swedes on Alfredsson’s team, but it was Slovaks who stole the show, with Gaborik taking game MVP honours, Hossa adding a goal and two assists and Chara netting the decisive goal along while going plus-7 for the game.
“The Swedish guys, you could hear it out there,” said Gaborik, who got two of his goals against New York Rangers teammate Henrik Lundqvist in the first period. “I’m glad I got a chance to play with Marian and (Russian) Pavel Datsyuk and I was glad Chara picked me in the draft. He had me sweating a bit, picking me late (31st overall), but it was fun.”
The Scotiabank Place crowd of 20,510 was chanting “Alfie” as the Senators captain scored twice late in the second period to tie the game 6-6, but despite pushing hard and getting a handful of chances, he could not complete the hat-trick against Boston goalie Tim Thomas.
“I didn’t try at all to score in the third,” Alfredsson said in mock denial.
Thomas, who caused an uproar last week when he refused to join his Boston teammates on a trip to meet President Barack Obama at the White House, turned out to be the winning goaltender as he allowed three goals on 21 shots in the third.
The Alfredssons outshot the Charas 50-44 overall.
Alfredsson looked frantic to get one more for the crowd, but he nailed a goalpost from close range and was robbed on another chance as a sprawling Thomas got a glove on a shot in the crease.
“I wasn’t thinking about his hat trick, I just didn’t want the other team to get any closer,” said Thomas. “The way these games go — boom, boom, boom — three goals can go by in a minute and a half. I didn’t want to let anyone score. It wasn’t anything about Alfie.”
Alfredsson, the 39-year-old who has spent his entire 16-year career with the Senators, admitted he was moved by an outpouring of support and accolades from fans and other players over the four-day all-star break in what has become his home city.
“It’s been surreal, almost like walking on Cloud 9,” he said. “It’s not an accomplishment this week, but more a celebration of what I’ve done before.
“I’m really thankful for that. It’s been almost overwhelming, to be honest.”
The game was typical all-star fare, with players trying to put on a show with fancy play but without getting hurt. There was no battling on the boards that might pull a groin or twist a knee, or blasts from the point that may break a foot.
The fans were into it, however, especially when cheering on the Senators on Alfredsson’s squad — Spezza, Michakel and Erik Karlsson — and booing the three Toronto Maple Leafs on Team Chara: Kessel, Lupul and Dion Phaneuf.
Team Chara looked on its way to a rout with three goals in the opening 10:09 of play.
But Spezza tipped Dan Girardi’s shot past Jimmy Howard to put Team Alfredsson on the board and Tavares and Stamkos scored to tie the game after 20 minutes.
Phaneuf played the villain to the hilt as he tripped Stamkos to draw only the second penalty shot in all-star game history at the 16:33 mark. The Tampa Bay sniper tried a spin-a-rama move, but was stopped easily by Howard.
“I think I ran out of moves,” said Stamkos, who scored three times on breakaways in the skills competition on Saturday. “I tried something a little fancy and hoped it would work. It didn’t. But I just tried to have fun with it. That’s what this weekend is all about.”
The first penalty shot was at last year’s game in Carolina, when Ovechkin threw his stick in a bid to stop a Matt Duchene breakaway. Duchene was stopped by Lundqvist, and an unapologetic Ovechkin later joked that “I’m in history again.”
Goalie Carey Price joked to a rink-side interviewer he felt like “a lamb being led to slaughter” as he took over the Alfredsson net in the second period and it took Gaborik only 1:23 to beat him for the hat-trick.
There were boos as Kessel and Lupul combined to beat Price only 2:10 later before Pominville got one back against Jonathan Quick.
The crowd roared as Alfredsson split the defence — more like the defence moved out of the way —and went in alone to tie it 5-5 and then he finished a tic-tac-toe play with Vancouver’s Sedin twins with a goal from the slot to give his team it’s first and only short-lived lead at 16:04, just before Kane tied the game once again.
Alfredsson started the game on a voted-in line with Spezza and Michalek, but later got his wish by skating with the Sedins, who did all they could to feed him for shots in the third.
“We always joke that when we play against them they have some language that’s almost alien and that only they understand, and you have to get the frequency and then you can understand,” Alfredsson said with a laugh.
“They are so good at anticipating and knowing what’s going to happen before they get the puck. I definitely benefited from that. It was fun.”
Even Chara, who played seven seasons in Ottawa, was pulling for Alfredsson in the third.
“Alfie’s such a classy guy,” he said.
The 38 all-stars will now rejoin their clubs. Regular season play resumes Tuesday. Next year’s all-star game is in Columbus, Ohio.