Simmonds, Gretzky engineer Metropolitans' All-Star Game win


Simmonds, Gretzky engineer Metropolitans' All-Star Game win

LOS ANGELES - Wayne Simmonds scored the tiebreaking goal with 4:58 to play, and fill-in coach Wayne Gretzky led the Metropolitan Division to a 4-3 victory over the Pacific Division on Sunday in the final match of the revamped NHL All-Star Game.

Columbus' Cam Atkinson scored the tying goal for the Metropolitans in the four-team, 3-on-3 divisional tournament format introduced to the midseason classic last season. Washington goalie Braden Holtby then made several big saves to secure the win for his 11-man team, which will split a $1 million prize.

Simmonds, the Flyers' first-time All-Star, was named the game's MVP after he put the Metropolitans ahead. The goal completed a hat trick for the former Kings forward, who is still well-liked in Los Angeles after he was traded to Philadelphia in 2011.

Simmonds and Atkinson, a late addition to the team, scored three goals apiece.

But the game was secondary when the NHL's best gathered on a 72-degree day in Hollywood. A sellout crowd at Staples Center cheered the first All-Star Game for Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and a host of young talent.

It was also just the second All-Star appearance by Sidney Crosby, who hadn't been healthy for the game since 2007. Crosby and Alex Ovechkin were played together by Gretzky, who stepped in to coach the Metropolitan team when Columbus' John Tortorella couldn't attend the weekend festivities due to an ailing dog.

The Great One even played a significant role in the outcome: Gretzky challenged an apparent goal by the Pacific in the final minutes and got it successfully taken off the board when McDavid was ruled offside.

The All-Stars got an additional thrill before the game when roughly half of the 100 greatest players in NHL history stood in a line on the ice and shook hands with the current players during introductions. The greats then dropped a ceremonial first puck for each of the 44 All-Stars.

The Pacific beat the Blackhawk-dominated Central Division team 10-3 in the first 20-minute semifinal, and the Metropolitan team beat the Atlantic 10-6 in the second.

The Pacific won last year in Nashville in the first edition of the open-ice format designed to inject excitement and goal-scoring a sometimes staid exercise. The formula worked again at Staples Center, but the two finalists tightened up their defense with real money on the line in the final minutes.

Crosby and Ovechkin, the long-standing rivals with parallel careers in Pittsburgh and Washington, were teammates on the Metropolitan team for the first time in a decade since they teamed up in the 2007 All-Star Game.

McDavid scored one of the afternoon's best goals early in the third when he slipped behind the Metropolitan defense, got a pinpoint long pass from Anaheim's Ryan Kesler and beat Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky's poke check with a nimble stop and a push shot while falling to his knees.

While Crosby and Ovechkin are arguably hockey's two biggest stars, their supporting cast got the job done. The Metropolitans scored three goals in 19 seconds during their semifinal, including two goals five seconds apart by Seth Jones and Taylor Hall.

The Atlantic Division team won Saturday's Skills Competition and got to choose its opponent for Sunday, but choosing the Metropolitan didn't work so well. Even pulling goalie Tuukka Rask with 2:55 to play and a three-goal deficit only led to an empty-netter by Atkinson, the last All-Star picked after Evgeni Malkin dropped out.

Backes 'will be out for a couple of games' with right leg laceration

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Backes 'will be out for a couple of games' with right leg laceration

The late season attrition continues for the Boston Bruins as David Backes will miss some time with the laceration on his right leg caused by an errant skate blade in Saturday night’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

MORE - B's sign Donato to entry-level contract

It took roughly 18 stitches to close a wound that was gushing blood as Backes quickly exited the ice in the first period, and now it looks like it’s going to force him to miss a handful of games here late in the season. Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that Backes isn’t “day-to-day” as they wait for nature to take its and heal a significant gash that could have been much worse for the 33-year-old power forward. 

“David Backes returned late [Saturday] night with the team. He did meet with our doctors, and they reevaluated the cut. They did some work on it. Obviously, you’ve got great medical care down in Tampa; we’re thankful for that, but our guys wanted their own hands and eyes on it,” said Sweeney. “A timetable hasn’t been set for him. 

“You can imagine it was a pretty significant cut, and now that it’s been, sort of, re-cleaned and addressed accordingly, we’ll just let nature take its course, let it heal. I don’t have a definitive timetable on that one, certainly not day to day. I would suspect he’ll be out for a couple games, and then we’ll reevaluate.”

MORE - B's make statement vs Lightning

The biggest concern for the Bruins with a cut of that nature is the chance of infection, so that’s something the Bruins medical staff will be monitoring closely as Backes heals over the next week or two. It’s too bad for both the B’s and Backes as the Bruins forward was knocked out in the first period against both Florida and Tampa after serving a three-game suspension, and has had his share of freak injuries and illness this season with first diverticulitis that ended with colon surgery, and now the skate blade incident. 

The good news is that it doesn’t sound like Backes is in any danger of being ready for the playoffs, and that’s truly matters as the Bruins continue to win games with so many good players injured and removed from the lineup. Sweeney also gave updates on Patrice Bergeron, who may join the Bruins on their next extended road trip following Monday night’s game vs. Columbus, and Jake DeBrusk, who it doesn’t sound like is all that close to returning to the lineup with his upper body injury.


Bruins sign prospect Ryan Donato to entry-level contract

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Bruins sign prospect Ryan Donato to entry-level contract

The Bruins announced Sunday they have signed Harvard forward Ryan Donato to a two-year entry-level contract.

Donato will be eligible to play in tomorrow's game vs the Blue Jackets.

The 21-year-old led Harvard in scoring in 2017-18, recording 26 goals and 17 assists for 43 points in 29 games. Donato also represented Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where he tied for the most goals in the Olympics with five in as many games.