Western Conf All Stars
Eastern Conf All Stars

Savard's goal with 20.9 seconds left lifts East over West

ATLANTA (AP) -- Marc Savard scored the winner, Rick Nash scored three goals, Eric Staal scored a brand new truck.

There was plenty to see in this NHL All-Star Game, even without Sid the Kid.

Savard, known for more for his passing than shooting, found an open net with 20.9 seconds left to lift the Eastern Conference to an 8-7 win over the West on Sunday night.

Suddenly, Atlanta was home again for the Boston Bruins forward. While the Thrashers faithful chanted and cheered for current favorite Ilya Kovalchuk, they showed a little love for Savard, who turned a 2 1/2-year stop in Atlanta into a lucrative free-agent deal with Boston before last season.

"It wasn't a tough shot, but it sure felt good when it went in," Savard said. "I got booed on Saturday and a little today, but I liked playing here for the Thrashers. It got my career on track. It felt great to come back and play in the All-Star Game.

"Getting the winning goal just made it more special."

Leading up, there was much talk about who wouldn't be at the All-Star Game. Sidney Crosby, the defending NHL MVP and scoring champion pulled out due to a sprained ankle, and starting goalies Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo both withdrew for personal reasons.

That left it wide open for others to grab the attention. Of the 42 players, 15 made their All-Star debuts.

The West started fast, then got buried. They rallied in the second, caught up in the third and even went ahead. They had Nash's hat trick to thank for that, and solid play from Staal, who was named MVP, and Savard to lament.

Real early it looked as though it would be a night for the West when Nash scored the first of his three a record-quick 12 seconds into the game. But the East took charge with five straight, including two by Alex Ovechkin -- Crosby's rival for top player in the NHL.

"We came out a bit slow and they took it to us," Nash said.

After the West erased a 5-1 deficit to go ahead 7-6, Staal and Savard put the East on top in the Deep South.

Staal, who had two goals and an assist, can drive the truck that comes along with the MVP award back to Hurricanes country in Raleigh, N.C., or become the biggest star in a family that has three boys in the NHL.

As he says in a league television commercial, "Is this the year we finally figure out who is Dad's favorite."

"I was saying to the guys on the ice if I do give it to my parents, I would sure be the favorite of the family for at least a little while," Staal said.

Ovechkin made an early bid for MVP honors, followed by Nash, and even goalie Evgeni Nabokov. In the end it was Savard. The play-making forward, second in the NHL in assists, buried the puck behind first-timer Manny Legace just when it seemed overtime was inevitable.

It also made a winner of Tim Thomas, his Bruins teammate who took Brodeur's place on the team just days before the game.

Not bad considering he gave up four goals in the first 10:57 of the frenetic third period.

"It felt pretty good to come up with the 'W' at the end," said the 33-year-old, first-time All Star, "especially the way that period started out."

Staal got the East even at 7 with 7:25 left by scoring his second of the night, then helped set up Savard for the winner. It was a pass from Buffalo defenseman Brian Campbell that made it easy.

"I expected him to shoot," Legace said. "I had no chance. I just hoped he'd miss the net. There was nothing I could do.

"Playing in an All-Star Game is tough for a goalie, but it was still great to be here. Unfortunately, the ending wasn't what I hoped."

Nash nearly became the fifth straight All-Star MVP winner from the losing side, instead ceding the award to Staal -- whose brother Marc played in the YoungStars game on Saturday night.

Ryan Getzlaf cut the West's deficit to 5-4 just 41 seconds into the third, and Nash completed his hat trick 1:15 later to tie it.

Marian Hossa of the Thrashers -- for now -- made it 6-5 at 4:08 as the East scored for the first time since the opening period. Hossa was cheered, but he could be a former Thrasher soon if he can't reach a new deal with Atlanta before next month's trade deadline.

Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf tied it again and Marian Gaborik gave the West its only lead at 7-6 with 9:03 left.

It sure didn't look as though it would be an Eastern Conference day when Nash started the 15th All-Star hat trick.

You can forgive New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro for that one as he was answering a television interviewer's question about the hip injury he sustained the night before in the skills competition as Nash raced his way.

The hip was fine, the attention span was a bit lax.

"They scored before I even knew what happened," DiPietro said. "But that's an All-Star Game. A goalie just has do what he can and hope for the best."

No worries. In this game of few whistles and fewer checks, the All-Stars skated freely and creatively. That didn't help Kovalchuk, who was stopped twice in the final 1:03 of the second period by San Jose's Nabokov.

Kovalchuk was parked in the slot and fired a one-timer that was labeled for the top right corner when Nabokov snatched it with a stabbing glove as he fell to the seat of his pants. Kovalchuk dropped to his back -- snow angel style -- in exasperation.

He tapped the goalie on the helmet when he got up, then set his aim on him again. Sent in on a breakaway with a long lead pass, Kovalchuk streaked toward the net as the final seconds of the period ticked off.

Kovalchuk let go a low shot that Nabokov met with a double stack of his pads. Kovalchuk threw his stick to the ice and gave it a kick as he quickly headed to the tunnel.

"He's quick for a small guy," Kovalchuk said with a smile.

Staal answered Nash's early haymaker with one of his own 1:20 into the game to tie it at 1 and set the East's offense in motion.

Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov gave the East a 2-1 lead before Ovechkin and Campbell scored 1:35 apart to push the advantage to three goals.

Ovechkin's second, off a perfect feed from Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis, was scored from right in front of the crease into an empty net to make it 5-1 with 2:11 remaining in the first.

The second period belonged to the West and the goalies.

Nabokov stopped all eight shots he faced, while Florida's Tomas Vokoun made 18 saves in 20 attempts as the East's lead was cut to 5-3.

Game notes
Detroit's Ted Lindsay held the record for fastest goal to start an All-Star Game when he scored at 19 seconds in 1950. The defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings beat the All-Stars 7-1. ... The last All-Star penalty came in the 2000 game when Sandis Ozolinsh was whistled for hooking. ... Nash, a three-time All-Star, had two goals and two assists last year in Dallas. ... Nabokov is the first goalie to post a perfect period since Nikolai Khabibulin did it for the World team in 2002.