Monday, July 16, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

It's Gretzky and goals for NHL All-Star Game MVP Simmonds

LOS ANGELES — Wayne Simmonds' first All-Star weekend after a nine-year NHL career was strange enough. Having Wayne Gretzky for a coach made it even stranger.

And after Simmonds scored the tiebreaking goal to become the All-Star Game MVP, the Flyers forward could think of only one word for his West Coast trip.

"Weird," he said, grinning.

Simmonds completed his hat trick with 4:58 to play, and fill-in coach Gretzky led the Metropolitan Division to a 4-3 victory over the Pacific Division on Sunday in the final match of the 62nd All-Star Game.

The Blue Jackets' Cam Atkinson scored the tying goal five seconds earlier for the Metropolitans. Capitals goalie Braden Holtby blanked the Pacific over the final 10 minutes to secure the win for his 11-man bunch, which splits the $1 million prize.

This was the second year the game had a team from each of the four divisions playing a 3-on-3 tournament with two semifinals and a final.

The Metropolitan — led by Gretzky, who stepped in to coach when Columbus' John Tortorella couldn't attend due to an ailing dog — made the final with a 10-6 win over the Atlantic team of the Lightning's Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov, in his first All-Star Game, had two goals and two assists, and Hedman, also a first timer, had a goal and an assist.

The Pacific beat the Blackhawk-dominated Central team 10-3 in the other semifinal.

Simmonds won the truck awarded to the game's MVP after he put the Metropolitans ahead in the championship game with a clever goal. Right off the faceoff after Atkinson's goal, Simmonds playfully flicked the helmet of the Pacific's Drew Doughty, his former Kings teammate, to distract the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman. Simmonds then skated around him and converted a pass from New Jersey's Taylor Hall.

"I just took off," Simmonds said. "I said to 'Hallsy' before the game, 'I'm going to drive back door on one of these plays, probably about a foot from the net. Just hit me with the puck. Hopefully, I can put it in.' It's exactly what we spoke about."

Shortly before Atkinson and Simmonds scored, an apparent deflection goal by the Pacific was taken off the board when the Oilers' Connor McDavid was ruled offside. Gretzky's players thought he had successfully challenged it, though the goal review apparently originated in the league offices in Toronto.

Gretzky didn't stick around Staples Center afterward to talk about his tactical genius, but Simmonds thought he deserved the credit for leading the Metropolitans to victory.

"Helped us win, right? That was the point," Simmonds said. "That was the game-changer."

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