East edge West in high-scoring All-Star clash

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Washington Capitals sniper Alexander Ovechkin scored in a shootout to seal a free-wheeling 12-11 win for the Eastern conference over the West in the NHL all-star game on Sunday.

East Conference all-star Alex Ovechkin (C) of the Washington Capitals shakes hands with West Conference all-star Sheldon Souray (L) of the Edmonton Oilers in front of Alexei Kovalev (R) of the Montreal Canadiens at the end of the NHL All-Star hockey game in Montreal, January 25, 2009. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

In a contest that featured one penalty and even fewer hits, the players’ competitive instincts finally surfaced late in the third period with the score tied 11-11 as both sides searched for the winner.

That finally came in a shootout with Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Kovalev providing a fairytale ending to the all-star weekend for the hometown fans, beating the Vancouver Canucks’ Roberto Luongo and securing the MVP for the contest.

Ovechkin, the NHL’s leading goal scorer and reigning MVP, then stepped up and clinched the victory to cap a rousing night hockey.

“When you go second you have the chance to be a hero,” Kovalev told reporters. “Right from the beginning of the weekend this was going to be unbelievable.

“To be chosen to the all-star game by the fans, then to be in the starting line-up and the captain and win the MVP you can’t ask for a better package than this.

“It’s definitely going to be something to remember the rest of my life.”

Kovalev also had two goals and an assist in regulation, earning him all-star MVP honors and a new car.

Tampa Bay Lightning’s Martin St. Louis also tallied twice for the East while Ovechkin, Eric Staal, Andrei Markov, Zach Parise, Evgeni Malkin, Dany Heatley and Jay Bouwmeester added singles.

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray had a pair for the West with Keith Tkachuk, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Rick Nash, Milan Hejduk, Jarome Iginla, Shane Doan, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane also finding the back of the net.

While the score was closer to what might be expected in next Sundaycriticizedowl than an NHL game, a capacity crowd at the Bell Center reveled in the skill, flashy moves and playful atmosphere of the often-criticized mid-winter showcase.

“Once you get out here and your competitive juices start going, the game was close and pride is on the line guys got going,” said Souray.

“This is my third time coming here and I haven’t been in one better than this one was at the end.”

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing Martin Petty