LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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. Jonathan Toews scored and Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford also represented the Blackhawks.
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.