RALEIGH, N.C. - Nicklas Lidstrom limited his All-Star losses to a flip of the puck and the skills competition.
The game was all his.
Unfazed by having to pick second in the inaugural NHL All-Star fantasy draft, the Detroit Red Wings’ defenseman built and went on to lead another winning team – though this was the first one named after him.
The four-time Stanley Cup champion and six-time winner of the Norris Trophy, given to the league’s top defenseman, was a plus-7 as he captained Team Lidstrom to an 11-10 victory over Team Staal in the All-Star game on Sunday night.
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“It’s a matter of being on the ice at the right moments, I guess,” the understated Lidstrom said of his performance. “They won the skills (Saturday), so I think we kind of came out even.”
Eric Staal had the No. 1 pick in the fantasy draft on Friday, the unconditional support of his hometown Carolina Hurricanes fans behind him, and a four-goal lead in the first period.
Still, it wasn’t enough to beat one of the NHL’s greatest winners.
“Pretty good night for Nicklas Lidstrom,” Staal said. “It’s fun to get to know him a little bit more ... just doing this whole experience for the first time with him. He played a great game as you can tell by the stats.”
Danny Briere, Jonathan Toews, and Martin St. Louis scored during a four-minute span of the third period to lift Team Lidstrom.
Another Team Lidstrom defenseman, Shea Weber of Nashville, had four assists and was plus-6, and Dallas forward Loui Eriksson had two goals and two assists. Boston’s Tim Thomas stopped 11 of 15 shots in the third period and became the first goalie to earn the win in three consecutive All-Star games.
Maybe Staal’s pick of Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward with the No. 1 selection in the fantasy draft wasn’t such a good idea, after all.
Ward could hardly be blamed for the four goals he gave up in the first. Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury also allowed four in the opening 20 minutes of a typically defenseless All-Star game.
“I thought I was doing pretty good the first 10 minutes,” Ward said. “It was like, ‘Whoa, this ain’t so bad, and boom, four goals against.”
One consolation for Team Staal: Chicago’s Patrick Sharp claimed MVP honors in a losing cause after he posted a goal and two assists.
With the team in white named after Staal, the Carolina fans decked out in red hardly seemed to care that Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin were missing because of injuries.
Staal’s club had a 4-0 lead, that was gone before the first intermission, and an 8-7 edge after Kris Letang’s second goal early in the third.
Then Lidstrom’s club staged its second comeback and grabbed a late lead — only to have Team Staal attempt a rally.
After Rick Nash cut it to 10-9 with 4:49 remaining, Eriksson sealed it by scoring into an empty net at 18:49. That insurance was necessary because Staal gave the RBC Center one more reason to yell when he made it 11-10 with his fourth career All-Star goal with 34 seconds left.
Philadelphia’s Briere got one of the injury replacement spots and made the most of it. Briere gave Team Lidstrom a 7-6 lead with 4:29 left in the second and tied it 8-8 at 9:57 into the final period with his third career All-Star goal.
That brought a smile to Peter Laviolette, a co-coach of Team Lidstrom who now runs the Philadelphia Flyers. Laviolette coached the Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup title. Local fans remembered him and that special season well Sunday and greeted his introduction with a huge ovation.