2015 NHL All-Star Game final score: Team Toews 17 Team Foligno 12

The 60th NHL All Star Game displayed all of the glitz, spectacle, skill and comic relief that you have come to expect of the event. With Team Toews ultimately prevailing by five, gaining revenge for the Skills Competition loss.

It has been a multi-year odyssey for the Columbus Blue Jackets to host an NHL All Star Game. They overcame issues over hotel space and competition from other franchises to finally land the game for 2013, only to have the game taken away by the work stoppage. There was no 2014 game, due to the Sochi Olympics, so when the 60th edition was again awarded to Columbus, the exhilaration -- and relief -- was palpable. The focus turned to putting on the best show possible, and tonight the curtain rose, with the entire hockey world watching.

The pre-game festivities went off without hitch, with Locksley performing "The Whip", Blue Jackets' anthem singer Leo Welsh -- accompanied by two RCMP mounties -- singing the Canadian anthem, and Jo Dee Messina belted a spirited version of the Star Spangled Banner. All were supported by an impressive array of on-ice lights and graphics. Full marks. Time to play hockey.

Period One -- Gentlemanly Demeanor

From the outset, this one followed the unwritten rules of All Star Game hockey:

  • All skating will be done at a moderate pace
  • Thou shall not hit
  • No blistering point shots
  • If a shot is too close/too open, the player must either pass the puck or attempt some goofy between the legs move or similar
  • The stretch pass or impossible pass will always be chose over the more obvious route./
Team Foligno started with Carey Price in goal, Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith on the blue line, and Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno and Alex Ovechkin up front. (Columbus fans: how would you like that line every night?) Team Toews countered with Roberto Luongo in net, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter re-creating their Nashville days on the blue line, and Rick Nash, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Getzlaf as the forwards. Game on.
Team Foligno broke through first, 3:09 into the game, when Radim Vrbata converted a nice feed from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who gained the only assist. A minute later, the fans cheered as Rick Nash missed the net on a partial breakaway. Tough crowd. However, Team Toews drew even at the 13:27 mark, when Ryan Getzlaf took the puck just to Price's right, and beat him top shelf. (Another unwritten rule -- no low shots). Vladimir Tarasenko and Justin Faulk notched the assists. THey drew ahead at the 10:07 mark, when Jonathan Toews drifted across the middle, making a nifty pass to himself, then finding Jakub Voracek back on the weak side. Voracek converted, with Aaron Ekblad earning the second helper.
At 8:55, Team Foligno drew even, with the local boys doing the damage. Ryan Johansen notched the goal, with Foligno and Kevin Shattenkirk garnering the assists. Of course, that did not last long. as Patrice Bergeron added a goal a minute later, with Tyler Seguin and Patrik Elias getting assists. Kevin Shattenkirk then knotted things up with his own goal, with Nugent-Hopkins and Vrbata helping him this time.,
Team Foligno took a 4 - 3 lead with 3:36 left, with Ryan Johansen notching his second of the night on a wicked wrister. Ovechkin and Dustin Byfuglien had assists. The lead seemed safe, until John Tavares snuck one past Carey Price with just 56.8 left in the frame, thanks to assists from Patrice Bergeron and Aaron Ekblad. Thus the period ended with the score knotted at 4-4, significantly under the over/under pace most were predicting.

For what it's worth, Team Foligno edged Team Toews in shots on goal, 17-16. The whistle blew only twice in anger, both times for offsides calls against Team Foligno. It seemed likely that the pace might escalate in the second.

Period Two: Less Stately, More Scoring

As predicted, the pace escalated in the middle frame, Just 24 seconds in, Ryan Suter put one past Marc Andre-Fleury, who had come on to replace Price in net. Taresenko and Tavares assisted. Not to be outdone, Claude Giroux evened things up eight seconds later, with Patrick Kane assisting. More scoring? Got it.
50 seconds later Tyler Seguin beat Fleury, who had apparently decided that the All Star Game more closely resembled post-season play than regular season games, rendering stopping the puck optional. Getzlaf and Tarasenko assisted. No matter, Steven Stamkos got on the board a minute later on a breakaway, with Keith getting the helper. Not three minutes into the frame, and four goals had been scored. Good even by All Star standards.
The ire of the crowd was raised when Rick Nash scored at the 15:33 mark (Toews, Voracek), and by this point the crowd was cheering in derision any time Fleury touched the puck without retrieving it from the back of the net. (I told you -- tough crowd). Of course, they recalled him surrendering some late goals that worked in the Blue Jackets favor in Games 3 & 4 of last year's playoffs. At 14:04, Filip Forsberg victimized Fleury, and in the process scored the first All Star Game goal for a Nashville Predator. Johnny Gaudreau and Elias hd the assists. The lead extended for Team Toews at 11:44, when Tavares found the net (Bergeron, Faulk), and widened further at 10:38 with a goal by Voracek, from Toews and Ekblad.
Unlike its opponent, Team Toews was getting stellar netminding from Corey Crawford. He stuffed Radim Vrbata with an arobatic save at the 9:35 mark, and denied Johansen on a breakaway just a minute later. However, Foligno took matters into his own hands, scoring with 8:01 left on a nice cross-crease stuff shot. (Johansen, Ovechkin). A scoring drought of five minutes ensued, ended by Steven Stamkos, with the assistance of Bobby Ryan. Tavares reprised his late period magic, scoring his hat trick goal with just a minute remaining. Bergeron had the lone helper, and Team Toews had a handy 11 - 8 lead after two, despite being outshot 18 - 16. Again, only two whistles were heard -- one offside call for each squad.

There was a well-orchestrated "scrum" in front of Crawford at the end of the period, after Johansen poked him back into the net after a stop on Johansen's shot. No blood, no fighting majors were imposed.

Eleven goals found the net in the second -- the most in NHL All Star Game history. What would the third hold?

Period Three: Skill and Silliness

The third period of this one was served the middle ground -- more active than the first, not as crazy as the second. Nash extended the Team Toews lead to four at the 18:31 mark, with assists to Mark Giordano and Voracek. It took just 45 seconds, however, for Team Foligno to answer, in the person of Patrick Kane, with Giroux and Drew Doughty on the board with helpers.

Team Toews extended the lead to five with consecutive goals in the span of just over a minute. Tavares got his fourth goal of the game at 13:47 (Bergeron, Brent Seabrook) and Voracek put one home at 12:30, with Toews and Ekblad assisting. By this point, Team Foligno was trying anything to narrow the gap, including all varieties of goofy plays to spring players on breakaways. More than one stick appeared from the bench in an effort to stop the puck from entering dangerous territory- but none made contact.
Bobby Ryan narrowed the lead at 11:30 with a beautiful shot, helped by Stamkos and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but was answered less than a minute later by Seguin (Tarasenko, Weber). After a brief scoring respite, Kane scored at 6:51 (Giroux) which was negated at 5:39 by Toews himself, with Suter helping. Filip Forsberg scored the second All Star goal in Predators' history to end the scoring for Team Toews (Gaudreau, Voracek). Brent Burns found the last slot on the scoresheet at 1:40, helped by Ovechkin and Johansen, making the final margin of 17 - 12. It thus became the highest scoring All Star Game in history, beating the 2001 total of 26 goals scored in a 14-12 win by the North American side over the World team. The 17 goals scored by Team Toews was also the highest team total, beating out the 16 scored by the Wales Conference team in 1993.

The MVP voting was left up to the fans, via Twitter, and the inevitable happened. Ryan Johansen won the award for his 2 goal, 2 assist performance. The fans apparently felt that John Tavares' four goal performance was somehow sub-par. To his credit, Johansen seemed to be the most shocked guy in the arena to receive the Honda Accord awarded to him. Post game, he had no idea what he was going to do with the car. Hey Ryan -- Ovechkin was begging for a car on Friday night, and the Caps do come to town on Tuesday. Just a thought . . .

Other performances of note include Jonathan Toews, with a goal and four assists, which was matched by Patrice Bergeron. Jakub Voracek had three of each for six points, and Mark Giordano was +6 on the night. For Team Foligno, not much to crow about, other than Johansen's four points. Ekman-Larsson and Byfuglien were each minus-5, while Kessel and Kane were minus-4. That can happen when you don't play defense and there are no power plays.

Wrapping It Up

Of course, the All Star Game is not about numbers. It's a celebration of the game, and the manner of play actually highlights the skill that these guys possess. Yes, there is a lot of goofiness, and the wrong guy won the MVP, but such is the price of not taking yourself too seriously.

At the end of the day, the winner was the game of hockey. The sport was celebrated appropriately by the best the game has to offer. The Blue Jackets, the City of Columbus can be justly proud of a job well done. Media and visitors were uniform in their praise of the entire operation. Now, it's back to the real world of NHL hockey, and we wait for the 61st All Star Game in Nashville. The bar has been set high, Predators. We're all looking forward to see what you can do In the meantime, we have plenty of time to enjoy the memories from this one.

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