RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Sorry Team Staal, Team Lidstrom felt right at home in Carolina.
Eric Staal had the No. 1 pick in the inaugural NHL All-Star fantasy draft and the unconditional support of his hometown Carolina Hurricanes fans behind him.
Still, he was left with a loss to a proven winner — Nicklas Lidstrom.
Danny Briere, Jonathan Toews, and Martin St. Louis scored during a four-minute span of the third period to lift Team Lidstrom over Team Staal 11-10 on Sunday in the NHL All-Star game.
Lidstrom can add this victory to the four Stanley Cup titles and six Norris trophies he has won with the Detroit Red Wings.
Maybe Staal’s pick of Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward with the No. 1 selection in the fantasy draft wasn’t such a good idea, after all. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, the league leader with 38 goals, went with the second pick to Lidstrom, and Stamkos scored the goal that made it 6-6 in the second period.
Ward could hardly be blamed for the four goals he gave up in the first. Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury also allowed four in the opening 20 minutes of a typically defenseless All-Star game.
One consolation for the Staals: Chicago’s Patrick Sharp claimed MVP honors in a losing cause after he posted a goal and two assists.
With the team in white named after Staal, the Carolina fans decked out in red hardly seemed to care that Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin were missing because of injuries.
Staal’s club had a 4-0 lead in the first, that was gone before the intermission, and an 8-7 edge after Kris Letang’s second goal early in the third.
Then Lidstrom’s club staged its second comeback and grabbed a late third-period lead — only to have Team Staal attempt a rally.
After Rick Nash brought Team Staal within a goal with 4:49 remaining, Loui Eriksson sealed it by scoring into an empty net at 18:49. That insurance was necessary because Staal gave the RBC Center one more reason to yell when he made it 11-10 with his fourth career All-Star goal with 34 seconds remaining.
Philadelphia’s Briere got one of the injury replacement spots and made the most of it. Briere gave Team Lidstrom a 7-6 lead with 4:29 left in the second period and then tied it 8-8 at 9:57 into the final period with his third career All-Star goal.
That brought a smile to the face of Peter Laviolette, a co-coach of Team Lidstrom who now runs the Philadelphia Flyers. Laviolette coached the Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup title. Local fans remembered him and that special season well Sunday and greeted his introduction with a huge ovation.
Briere gave Team Lidstrom its first lead, not only of the game but of the entire weekend when he took a pass in the left circle and lifted a shot over Montreal’s Carey Price in the second. Team Lidstrom was beaten 33-22 in wire-to-wire fashion on Saturday night in the skills competition.
Early in the second it appeared as though Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller was in for the same anguish as all the other goalies. Sharp, who had two assists in the first period, finished things himself 1:18 in when he took a pass from Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux in the left circle and snapped in a shot.
Letang pushed Team Staal’s lead to 6-4 at 6:10 by ripping a shot off the post and in. That would be the final blemish on Hiller’s ultimately impressive performance.
Hiller made acrobatic moves in the final five minutes of the second period to deny 18-year-old Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner and Columbus’ Nash. Hiller made his MVP pitch by finishing with 15 saves on 17 shots.
Staal and Skinner, the NHL’s youngest All-Star ever, were often fed the puck by teammates trying to get them a goal — or two — to please the hometown fans who alternately chanted their names.
With the arena still dark during the pregame build-up, the crowd belted out it’s first chant of, “Let’s Go Staal.” When the lights came up, a snowy pond scene was revealed and children acted out an old-fashioned way to choose up teams — throwing your sticks in the middle and having a captain pick them out one by one.
One selection drew longtime Hurricanes fans favorite Rod Brind’Amour out from the shadows. The next pick brought out Hall of Famer Ron Francis, who along with Brind’Amour was a Carolina captain.
The next two choices were Lidstrom and Staal, who conducted sports’ most unique draft on Friday night when they split up 36 All-Stars.
The draft clearly was the highlight of the weekend. It brought Eric Staal’s younger brother Marc, a Rangers defenseman, onto his team for the first time in their lives, but it split up identical twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks for the first time, too.
Alex Ovechkin had his own stick-throwing ceremony in the third period when he tossed his in the path of Team Lidstrom’s Matt Duchene as the Colorado forward raced in on a breakaway. That move drew the only penalty of the game and a penalty shot for Duchene against New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made the stop.
Staal’s top choice of Ward looked more genius than sentimental early on when the players in white jumped out to a 4-0 lead, with Ward standing tall behind them. Team Staal scored all its goals on the first nine shots against Fleury, while Ward was perfect on the first four her faced.
The tide then turned. Lidstrom’s team in blue connected for four goals on its final 10 shots of the first. Fleury went 5 for 5 to close out the period.
Ovechkin gave Staal’s team a 1-0 lead 50 seconds in when he flipped a puck from the left-wing boards that was deflected into the net by Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith. Colorado’s Paul Stastny made it 2-0 at 2:48, with an assist from Sharp, New Jersey’s Patrik Elias pushed the lead to three goals at 3:20, and Flyers Giroux made it 4-0 at 5:41.
Team Lidstrom rallied behind Anze Kopitar’s first of two goals at 10:50, Atlanta defenseman Dustin Byfuglien’s tally 2:50 later, Eriksson’s first with 3:53 remaining in the first, and Duchene’s goal with 3:30 to go in the wild period.
Notes: Francis’ No. 10 has been retired by the Hurricanes. Brind’Amour’s No. 17 will be raised to the rafters later this season. … Six sets of All-Star teammates wore identical numbers, including the goalie tandem of Ward and Lundqvist, who both donned their familiar No. 30. … Skinner at 18 years, 259 days, broke Steve Yzerman’s mark of youngest All-Star. Yzerman was 18 years, 267 the day of the 1984 game. Skinner had one assist.
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