Rangers Show Off Their Skills; Dubinsky YoungStars MVP
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|Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky led the way for the Eastern Conference in Saturday night's YoungStars Game, scoring two goals to earn MVP honors.
Scott Gomez, Marc Staal and Brandon Dubinsky, the Rangers' three representatives at Saturday night's NHL SuperSkills competition, fared very well for themselves, while also helping the Eastern Conference All-Stars to a 9-6 victory over the Western Conference at Atlanta's Philips Arena.
It was a particularly big night for Dubinsky, who was named the MVP of the annual YoungStars Game. The game brought the top 16 rookies from the NHL's two conferences together for a 3-on-3 game, and Dubinsky led the East with two goals and an assist.
The YoungStars event showcased the great potential that Staal and Dubinsky have shown Rangers fans all season. Broken up into two six-minute periods, the YoungStars Game was worth one point in the total Superskills score for the winners of each period. Staal and Dubinsky were both outstanding in the first six minutes, as the East routed the West 6-2 to earn a point. The West would come back to win the second period 4-1.
Dubinsky was a standout on offense for the Eastern Conference YoungStars, all NHL rookies, as he had an hand in three of the six first-period goals. Staal, meanwhile, scored a beautiful goal on a first-period semi-breakaway and assisted on the East's lone second-period goal.
|Rangers defenseman Marc Staal had a big night in the NHL YoungStars game, scoring one goal and setting up another.|
Staal then made it 4-1 when he took a cross-ice pass in the right circle and skated in one-on-one with Western Conference goalie Chris Osgood of the Detroit Red Wings. Staal fooled the veteran Osgood with a high wrister that caught the top of the left post and bounced into the net for the type of goal that typified the wide-open excitement of a 3-on-3 format.
The Rangers rookies weren't done, however, as Dubinsky capped off the first-period scoring with only 13 seconds left, when he redirected a centering pass behind Osgood for his third point of the night.
Staal later picked up his second point when he set up a goal by Backstrom early in the second period. Staal took the initial shot, which was stopped by Western Conference goalie Manny Legace, but Backstrom was right there for the rebound.
Legace later made a big stop on a breakaway by Staal, as the Rangers defenseman nearly came up with his third point of the night to match Dubinsky.
|Scott Gomez prepares to be introduced by the P.A. announcer prior to Saturday night's SuperSkills event.|
Shooting in the second round, Gomez became only the second of the first four shooters to record a goal, when he beat Osgood low to the stick side. Two other Eastern Conference shooters would follow Gomez into the final round, giving the East three shooters – Gomez, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Philadelphia's Kimmo Timonen – to go up against Dion Phaneuf, the lone Western representative.
Gomez's stay in the final round was brief, however, as he was forced wide by Legace, and ended up hitting the outside of the left post with his shot attempt. Legace also stopped Malkin and Timonen, allowing Phaneuf to win the shootout for the West with a goal against Boston's Tim Thomas.
Gomez will be back in action for the Eastern Conference at the 56th NHL All-Star Game on Sunday. The 6 p.m. game airs on Versus.
Here is a look at how other events went on Saturday night:
The East edged the West 2-1 in this new drill – a four-part relay challenge that included stickhandling, saucer-passing, target shooting and the chance for a goaltender to score from the crease area. Two rounds of competition were held, involving a total of 16 players.
The format for this event was changed this year. No longer a timed lap around the rink, the event pitted skaters in a head-to-head race the length of the ice. Shawn Horcoff of the Edmonton Oilers won the overall event for the West, defeating Buffalo's Brian Campbell in the final.
Toronto defenseman Tomas Kaberle won the event in a playoff against Nashville's Jason Arnott. In the first round, Kaberle became only the fourth player ever to break four targets in four shots, joining Ray Bourque, Mark Messier and Jeremy Roenick. Kaberle then went 3-for-4 in the second round and 1-for-1 in the playoff, converting a remarkable eight of nine total shots.
For the second year in a row, Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara was the winner, nailing a 103.1 mph shot that was the second-hardest in the event's history. Only Al Iafrate had a harder shot in the competition, back in the 1990s, when Iafrate broke the 105-mph barrier. Chara was one of three players to surpass 100 mph on Saturday. The others were Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier (101.9) and Arnott (100.3).
A new event modeled after the NBA's Slam Dunk competition, offered shooters a chance to come up with circus shots in a shootout format. While many creative attempts were made, few managed to score. The highlight of the evening came on a non-goal by Alexander Ovechkin, who picked the puck up off the ice and "dribbled" it up and down on his stick before attempting to whack it home with a baseball swing. On two such attempts, Ovechkin fanned on the shot but managed to impress a group of judges that included former NHLers Bill Clement and Scott Mellanby as well as NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins.