Los Angeles -- Former Los Angeles Kings fan favorite Wayne Simmonds scored the tiebreaking goal with 4:58 remaining in regulation to lift the Metropolitan Division past the Pacific Division, 4-3, in the final of the 2017 NHL All-Star Game at STAPLES Center.
Braden Holtby did not allow a goal over the final 10 minutes for the Metropolitan Division.
“It’s all pretty surreal,” said Simmonds, who was making his All-Star Game debut. “I don’t even know if I realize what’s going on right now, but it’s pretty cool.”
By virtue of its championship, the Metropolitan Division – coached by Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky and assistant Paul Coffey – claimed the winner-take-all $1-million prize for the tournament.
"Wayne Gretzky is the greatest player to ever play this game," said Simmonds. "To get a chance to play for him was an honor. It was just a great situation to be in, and I'm just really happy right now."
Simmonds, who scored twice in the Metropolitan Division’s semifinal win, earned MVP honors. A second-round pick (61st overall) by the Kings in the 2007 NHL Draft, Simmonds played his first three NHL seasons in Los Angeles before a trade to Philadelphia.
The Metropolitan Division had advanced to the Final by defeating the Atlantic Division 10-6 in the Semifinals. Holtby and Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside 19 of 25 shots, with Holtby stopping 12 of 15 shots -- the most that any All-Star goaltender has faced in one game under the 3-on-3 format. Cam Atkinson and John Tavares (both 2-2--4) led all scorers for the winners.
The Pacific Division had advanced to the Final by defeating the Central Division 10-3 in the Semifinals. Each of the team's nine skaters tallied a goal as well as multiple points in a balanced attack, led by Cam Fowler's game-leading four points (1-3--4). Hometown Kings stars Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty added 1-2--3 apiece.
After capturing the title in 2016 with the Pacific Division, Metropolitan Division forward Taylor Hall became the only player to win both All-Star Games played under the 3-on-3 format. Hall was a combined 1-3--4 in two games, recording the lone assist on MVP Wayne Simmonds' game-winning goal in the Final.
The format divided the All-Star Game into three 20-minute games, with players from each Division making up the four All-Star teams: Pacific, Central, Atlantic, and Metropolitan.
Wayne Simmonds Interview
Below are excerpts from 2017 All-Star Game MVP Wayne Simmonds' post-game interview:
Q. When you left LA, you weren't used in the role that you are now in Philly. What do you think happened to kind of change the perception of your game and allowed your career to take off?
WAYNE SIMMONDS: You know, I actually don't know, I just remember Coach Laviolette just putting me net front on the power play from first practice when I got to Philadelphia. From then on out, it was kind of just something that I relished, and I just tried to make the best of my opportunity. We're sitting here right now, so so far, so good.
Q. On the game-winning goal you went right past Drew, and I know it was one of those things you were hoping he was --
WAYNE SIMMONDS: It's pretty funny because I stuck my stick behind his helmet and kind of flicked it up, so possibly he was trying to fix it, so I don't know, I just took off -- Hallsy went forward with it and I just took off. I said to Hallsy before the game, I'm going to drive back door with one of these plays, and about a foot from the net, I was like, just hit me with the puck and hopefully I can put it in. It was funny because it was exactly what we spoke about.
Q. What did that mean to you?
WAYNE SIMMONDS: You know, it meant a lot. I haven't been here for six years. I got traded when I was still 22 years old, when I got traded. I'm 28 now. I've been in Philadelphia for the last six years. When you leave a place, you don't expect to come back and get all the cheers as I did today, but I must have did something right when I was here. I know I had a lot of die-hard fans here, and I really appreciate those people. I just appreciate everything. It made me feel good today.
Q. Physicality is a big component of your game in a normal game. How did you figure out what kind of game you would play here today knowing what an All-Star is like and obviously there's no hitting?
WAYNE SIMMONDS: Just don't make yourself look like an idiot, don't dump and chase, just try to keep the puck on your stick, and there was a lot of great players around me, obviously, so it was more thinking I was going to 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. There's a lot of great players in the Metro Division, and it was a lot of fun playing with everybody.
Q. I just wanted to kind of get your thoughts on what the weekend meant, diversity in hockey, especially the growing black presence in the league, obviously four black players in the game. Just your thoughts on all that went on in a very short period of time here.
WAYNE SIMMONDS: It was unbelievable. I think if you look around the game now, you're starting to see different ethnicities, not only black, but it's starting to open up a little bit, and that's the goal here. We're trying to spread the game. We're not necessarily trying to change the look of it, but just get different people in it and you get different avenues. Hockey is for everybody, so it's a great sport. I'm just trying to be a good ambassador and stuff like that, so it's great.
Q. What do you think of Wayne pulling down a coach's challenge here in the All-Star?
WAYNE SIMMONDS: Helped us win, right? That was the play. That was the game changer. That was the decision. Obviously he's got a great hockey mind. He pulls that card, it's offside, and come back, we score two goals and we win the game, so obviously it was a great decision.
LA Kings announcer Bob Miller hospitalized
The Los Angeles Kings released the following statement regarding the health of local Hall of Fame TV play-by-play announcer Bob Miller:
“Bob Miller suffered a mild stroke on Saturday and was admitted to USC Keck Hospital where he currently remains. He is under the care of a team of specialized physicians, and he is doing well and in good spirits.”
All-Star Event Winners
This weekend the NHL All-Stars showed off their skills prior to the games. Below are the skill contest winners:
NHL Fastest Skater: Connor McDavid (Pacific/EDM), 13.02 secs.
NHL Accuracy Shooting: Sidney Crosby (Metropolitan/PIT), 10.73 secs.
NHL Hardest Shot: Shea Weber (Atlantic/MTL), 102.8 mph
SUNDAY’S RESULTS (Home Team in Caps)
PACIFIC DIVISION 10, Central Division 3 (SF)
Metropolitan Division 10, ATLANTIC DIVISION 6 (SF)
Metropolitan Division 4, PACIFIC DIVISION 3 (F)
TUESDAY’S ACTION (All Times Eastern)
Washington @ NY Islanders, 7 p.m., CSN-DC+, MSG+
Columbus @ NY Rangers, 7 p.m., FS-O, MSG 2
Nashville @ Pittsburgh, 7 p.m., FS-TN, ROOT
Philadelphia @ Carolina, 7 p.m., CSN-PH, FS-CR
Buffalo @ Montreal, 7:30 p.m., MSG-B, SNE, RDS
New Jersey @ Detroit, 7:30 p.m., MSG+ 2, FS-D
Boston @ Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m., SN, SN1, TVAS, NESN, SUN
Ottawa @ Florida, 7:30 p.m., TSN5, RDS2, FS-F
Winnipeg @ St. Louis, 8 p.m., TSN3, FS-MW
Toronto @ Dallas, 8:30 p.m., SNO, FS-SW
Minnesota @ Edmonton, 9 p.m., FS-N, FS-WI, SNW
Los Angeles @ Arizona, 9 p.m., FS-W, FS-A
Colorado @ Anaheim, 10 p.m., SN, SN1, ALT, PRIME
Chicago @ San Jose, 10:30 p.m., CSN-CH, CSN-CA
REGULAR SEASON RESUMES WITH 14-GAME SLATE
The 2016-17 regular season resumes on Tuesday with 28 of the NHL’s 30 teams in action. A look at where clubs stand with 60.1% (739 / 1,230 GP) of the campaign in the books:
* Twenty-four of the League’s 30 teams are within six points of a playoff spot.
* The top 10 teams in the overall NHL standings are separated by just nine points.
* The top three teams in the Pacific Division are separated by only one point.
* The top four teams in the Metropolitan Division are separated by nine points.
* Teams 2-6 in the Atlantic Division are separated by just eight points.
* Teams 3-6 in the Central Division are separated by only six points.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services