By Tim Campbell – NHL.com
Wayne Simmonds checked all the boxes at the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game, including scoring the winning goal for the Metropolitan Division in a 4-3 victory against the Pacific Division in the championship of the 3-on-3 tournament at Staples Center on Sunday.
The Philadelphia Flyers forward, who was named the MVP, said he had a clear vision of what he wanted to accomplish in his first NHL All-Star Game.
“Just don’t make yourself look like an idiot,” Simmonds said. “Don’t dump and chase. Try to keep the puck on your stick. There’s a lot of great players around … and I was thinking maybe just defer to everybody else to be honest with you. But it ended up that I had some big goals. It was great playing with all those guys.”
WATCH: All-Star highlights
Simmonds and Cam Atkinson scored five seconds apart midway through the second half to help the Metropolitan Division rally from down 3-2 at the intermission.
The Metropolitan players split the $1 million prize awarded to the winning team.
Playing the second half, Metropolitan goalie Braden Holtby didn’t allow a goal. He got help from the goal post and defenseman Ryan McDonagh on Ryan Kesler‘s shot with about 40 seconds left.
“It was quite a kick save,” Holtby said of McDonagh. “It’s a game-saver right there. I think we were both surprised that it stayed out.”
After Atkinson tied the game 3-3 by scoring on his own rebound with 5:03 left, Metropolitan forward Taylor Hall won the ensuing faceoff by pushing past Pacific center Jeff Carter.
“I didn’t even tell the guys on the ice I was doing it,” said Hall, the New Jersey Devils forward who played for the Pacific Division last season when it won the first 3-on-3 All-Star Game tournament. “I just saw they were lined up three across on the red line and tried to push it through.
“It seemed to work out a couple times like that during the game. It’s fun to try that kind of stuff in an all-star game.”
Breaking quickly on a 2-on-0, Hall fed a perfect pass to Simmonds, who had skated past Pacific defenseman Drew Doughty and beat goalie Mike Smith with 4:58 left to break the 3-3 tie.
“It was kind of funny because I stuck my stick behind [Doughty’s] helmet on the faceoff and flipped it up, so possibly he was trying to fix it,” Simmonds said. “[Hall] went forward with it, and I just took off … I said to [Hall] before, ‘I’m going to try backdoor on one of these plays,’ and about a foot from the net I just thought, ‘Just hit me with the puck and hopefully I can put it in.’
“That’s exactly how we scored.”
Simmonds, who had two goals in the Metropolitan Division’s 10-6 semifinal win against the Atlantic Division, won a 2017 Honda Ridgeline as MVP.
Joe Pavelski, Connor McDavid and Bo Horvat scored for the Pacific Division, all in the first half against Metropolitan goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
Defensemen Seth Jones and Justin Faulk scored for the Metropolitan Division in the first half.
In the second half of a tight game, the pace and intensity picked up dramatically.
“When you get to the final, you might as well try to win,” Metropolitan Division captain Sidney Crosby said. “You could see the intensity, guys backchecking and blocking shots. It started to get a little more serious as it went along. That’s to be expected. Guys are competitive.
“And who’d have thought the offside rule would come into play there, but you need the bounces if you’re going to win.”
The Pacific Division thought it went ahead 4-2 at 3:24 of the second half when Kesler’s shot went in off McDonagh.
But Metropolitan coach Wayne Gretzky challenged the goal, and video review showed Pacific captain Connor McDavid was offside.
“It helped us win, right?” Simmonds said. “That was the game-changer.”
The 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend included the announcement Friday of the final 67 of the League’s 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian.
Before the Central Division and Pacific opened the 3-on-3 tournament, 48 of those 67 legends were introduced and came out onto the Staples Center ice before the four All-Star teams made their entrance.
Each all-star exchanged fist-bumps down the line of legends.
“That was pretty surreal, crazy,” Holtby said. “You were giving them fist-bumps, but it was almost like you’re doing them a dishonor, that you should be shaking those guys’ hands.
“When I passed Ken Dryden and I’m fist-bumping him, I felt like I should be shaking his hand and saying how much he’s meant to the game and to me. It was very cool. I’m glad they all looked like they enjoyed it and got the recognition they deserve.”