(The Sports Xchange) - Bridgestone Arena belonged to the guy the NHL did not want there.
Left winger John Scott captained the winning Pacific Division team on Sunday at the All Star Game, scoring two goals in a 9-6 victory over the Central and helping his squad blank the Atlantic 1-0 for the championship and $1 million.
The Scott story ended in a fashion that would be rejected by any Hollywood screen writer, as he won the fans’ write-in vote for Most Valuable Player decisively despite not being listed on the original ballot on the scoreboard.
The sellout crowd of 17,006 lustily booed and started chanting “John Scott” during the last 6 1/2 minutes. Scott’s team mates lifted him on their shoulders just before he was named MVP and then banged their sticks on the ice in approval as the audience roared.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “It’s probably one of the better weekends of my life.”
Winner of a fan vote to captain the Pacific team, Scott absorbed criticism from some around ice hockey who felt he did not deserve a spot in the game, based on his five goals in 285 career games and a skill set which leans more toward hitting and the occasional fight than scoring.
Arizona traded Scott to Montreal on Jan. 15 and the Canadiens sent him down to their AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The NHL opted at that time to invalidate the fan vote, only to have to change their minds three days later after a backlash.
The 6-foot-8, 260-pound Scott was seen as a poor fit for the new 3-on-3 format that emphasizes speed and skill, yet he scored on his first shift at 47 seconds of the Pacific’s semi-final game, tipping in a pass from San Jose defenseman Brent Burns.
“I didn’t expect to score first shift,” Scott said. “It’s crazy. You can’t make that stuff up.”
Scott added a second goal at 13:27 as Burns sprung him on a breakaway down the middle. That was part of a six-goal explosion by the Pacific in the last 10 minutes that featured two markers from Edmonton left winger Taylor Hall.
Goals were surprisingly scarce in the championship period, with Anaheim right winger Corey Perry the only one to crack the code. Perry ripped a wrister by Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop at 13:22 off a pass by Vancouver left winger Daniel Sedin.
Florida goalie Roberto Luongo and Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick combined for 22 saves, 12 by Luongo, in a breathtaking exhibition of save-making over the first 10 minutes.
“Just shows you how good the goalies are,” Perry said.
Anaheim goalie John Gibson picked up the win with seven saves, making a couple in the last minute after the Atlantic pulled Bishop for a fourth skater.
Scott’s MVP performance was a fitting ending to a day where the form chart, such as it is in any All Star event, was flogged.
Both semi-final favorites — Central and Metropolitan — lost and an expected flurry of goals in the championship period never materialized.
Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban’s marker at 15:22 of the first semi-final lifted the Atlantic to a 4-3 decision over the Metropolitan. Bishop delivered five saves in the final minute after the Metro went to an extra attacker.
Most players said the new format lent itself to a better quality of play than most All Star games, although the Central-Pacific period was basically a track meet on skates.
But talk about the format change was totally overshadowed by Scott’s unexpected performance and award.
“He’s probably on cloud 1,000,” Subban said of Scott. “Good for him.”
Besides his share of the $1 million for the winners, which comes out to about $90,000, Scott also won a car. His wife is scheduled to give birth to twins in the next week, which will double his family to four children.
“I don’t know if it’s going to sink in any time soon,” Scott summed up. “I never thought the fans would get behind me like that. You can’t put that into words.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford