In a prelude to Sunday's All-Star tournament, the NHL All-Stars took to the ice on Saturday night for the Skills Competition with the Eastern Conference earning the 29-12 win over the West.
Though he often plays like has ice water in his veins, Evgeny Kuznetsov looked like he was dealing with nerves early in the night. On his first attempt in the breakaway challenge, he tried to lift the puck to juggle but could not keep it on his stick and instead improvised with some smooth stick handling before flipping the puck to Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne who made the easy save.
On his second attempt, Kuznetsov paid tribute to Alex Ovechkin's appearance in 2009 as he donned a cowboy hat and glasses. Kuznetsov even ditched his left-handed stick for a righty just to complete the Ovechkin image. Switching hands, however, is harder than it looks and he was not able to shoot it on net against the guitar-wielding Rinne.
Kuznetsov's nerves settled down in the skills relay where he was tasked with passing the puck into four mini-nets. After a few attempts to hit the first net, Kuznetsov proceeded to hit his next three-straight shots.
In typical fashion, Backstrom did his best work on the night with the pass. He served as a passer for the accuracy challenge, helping John Tavares win the competition with a time of 12.294 seconds. Backstrom also was the mini-net passer in the Eastern Conference's first heat. His groups time of 1:38.41 in the relay was the second-best time of the night.
Holtby made quick work of the goalie goals in the skills relay as he scored on each of his first three shots. The Caps netminder was also solid in the shootout as he turned aside eight of nine shots faced. Joe Pavelski of San Jose was the only one to beat him by tucking a shot just underneath Holtby's glove.
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Other highlights of the night:
- Dylan Larkin won the first event of the night as the fastest skater. He then was given a chance to break Mike Gartner's record of 13.386 which he did with a time of 13.172 despite stumbling on the last turn. In doing so, he beat a record Gartner set 20 years ago in 1996...before Larkin was born (he is 19).
- P.K. Subban stole the show in the the breakaway challenge. After showing off some incredible juggling skills in his first shot, he did his best Jaromir Jagr impressio on his second with a Panther's jersey and mullet. Subban narrowly won the event with 31 percent of the fan vote, edging out San Jose's Brent Burns who had his son score on the first shot and then wore a Chewbacca mask on his second.
- Shea Weber defended his hardest shot title on his home ice in Nashville. Though he was not able to match last year's 108.5 mph shot, he came close with 108.1. Though only one shot counted, Weber endd up with the three hardest shots on the night. His first attempt went for 105.3 and after some prodding from the crowd for one more shot, he took an extra shot after he had already won and still registered 107.8.
- John Scott received a standing ovation when he took to the ice for the hardest shot competition. He registered a respectable 95.9 mph. He also attempted a spin move in the shootout that took everyone by surprise. New Jersey goalie Cory Schneider was just able to kick the pad out for the save.
- After wining the event, the Atlantic and Metropolitan Division captains Jagr and Tavares elected to play their game first on Sunday, meaning the Caps' representatives will play at 5 p.m. The Western Conference will play at 6 p.m. with the winner of both moving on to the finals at 7 p.m.