LAS VEGAS (AP) — Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux scored three goals and the Metropolitan Division beat the Central Division 5-3 on Saturday in the final 3-on-3 match to win the NHL All-Star Game.
New Jersey’s Jack Hughes, at 20 the youngest All-Star, also scored three goals for the Metropolitan team in the All-Star extravaganza's first trip to Las Vegas, which has become a major stage for hockey's top league since the expansion Vegas Golden Knights entered in 2017.
The 34-year-old Giroux, a seven-time All-Star who could be on the move soon after spending his entire career with the Flyers, won his first All-Star MVP award with two goals in the final and another in the semifinal.
He also picked up the $1 million check shared among the winning team as the captain of the Metropolitan squad. Giroux got the job at late notice in place of Alex Ovechkin, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week.
Giroux clearly took the All-Star showcase seriously, showing off his goal-scoring abilities to any less-serious competitors — and perhaps to any potential suitors for the veteran forward, an asset that could be cashed in by Philadelphia before he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.
Carolina’s Frederik Andersen was the standout goalie, allowing just three goals and picking up an assist.
After a one-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NHL’s midseason showcase returned to action with the 3-on-3 tournament format introduced in 2016 and employed in the previous five All-Star events.
Hughes scored two goals for the Metropolitan team in its 6-4 win over the Pacific in the first semifinal. Alex DeBrincat and Jordan Kyrou then got a pair of goals apiece in the Central's 8-5 win over the Atlantic in the second semifinal.
The Pacific's loss disappointed a home crowd that wanted to cheer on its three Golden Knights All-Stars in the final. Vegas coach Peter DeBoer kept the event in perspective — and even confirmed that Las Vegas nightlife might have played a role in any sluggish starts by the world's greatest hockey talents.
“We got off to a slow start,” DeBoer said. “That was probably due to late-night Vegas activities last night, but we eventually got into the game. ... I'll be honest with you, I'm a little hung over today. I'm not going to lie to you. Yesterday I was fully focused on the skills (competition), and there was some excellent stuff, but today is a little bit foggy for me.”
DeBoer gave the Vegas crowd what it wanted and started his own Jonathan Marchessault, Mark Stone and Alex Pietrangelo with Anaheim goalie John Gibson.
But Washington first-time All-Star Tom Wilson scored for the Metropolitan team on the game's first shot just 13 seconds after the opening faceoff, thoroughly annoying the Vegas crowd. Sin City has booed Wilson at every opportunity ever since his late hit on Marchessault in Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final eventually won by the Caps.
Wilson's goal was the second-fastest to begin an All-Star Game under any format, topped only by Rick Nash's 12-second goal in 2009.
High-scoring Edmonton stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl didn't find the net for the Pacific. McDavid also finished a surprising fourth in the Fastest Skater competition during Friday's skills challenge.
The Central blitzed the Atlantic in the second semifinal, scoring five goals in the second period.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Greg Beacham, The Associated Press