Pettersson wins hardest shot, Crosby takes a dip at NHL all-star skills competition
SUNRISE, Fla. — Elias Pettersson provided the Vancouver Canucks with a rare memorable moment in an otherwise forgettable season.
Away from the rink, Sidney Crosby took a plunge and Nick Suzuki registered his first birdie of the year.
The NHL's all-star skills competition featured the classic events Friday — with a sprinkle of South Florida.
Pettersson won the hardest shot event with a blast off the lanky centre's stick that registered 103.2 miles per hour, beating out Alex Ovechkin and three other competitors.
"Probably the greatest goal-scorer ever," Pettersson said of the Washington Capitals captain. "No pressure, so I just tried to hit it as hard as I could."
Ovechkin came away impressed.
"I think there was a little bit of cheating," the Russian joked. "Good for him."
Crosby, meanwhile, took a dip in the NHL's first-ever "Splash Shot" that saw players attempt to hit surf board targets on a beach in nearby Fort Lauderdale thanks to Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen.
"That was fun," Crosby said of the tape-delayed event. "Knew I was in trouble when Rantanen went 3-for-3 those first three shots.
"I knew I was going to get wet."
The captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins volunteered to be part of the event before knowing the parameters.
"They said it was on the beach," Crosby offered with a grin. "I didn't know I was going to get heckled for 20 minutes and get dunked.
"I had it envisioned in my head a little bit different, but it was still fun."
Rantanen and Avalanche teammate Cale Makar won the event over New York Rangers defenceman Adam Fox and goaltender Igor Shesterkin.
Crosby and Ovechkin also conspired to take the breakaway challenge with a little help from the latter's four-year-old son Sergei, who slid the puck past Hall of Fame goaltender and Florida Panthers great Roberto Luongo.
"Everybody enjoyed," Ovechkin said. "Sergei was very happy, always smiling."
"Nice to have his son be a part of it," said Crosby, before adding of his retired Canadian Olympic teammate: "And have Lu out there too. Nice to see him out there.
"Thought I was done shooting against him."
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner kicked off the breakaway challenge sporting a white suit and wraparound sunglasses in a "Miami Vice" homage, but was stopped on his playful attempt by Luongo.
Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak, wearing a Happy Gilmore jersey in honour of the Adam Sandler movie character, putted his chance into an empty net.
Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk and younger brother Brady, the captain of the Ottawa Senators, went with a beach-themed effort against Luongo, but Crosby and the Ovechkins won over the celebrity judges.
"Special moment," Ovechkin said. "Fans love it. We both love it. I think it's great for the game. It's great for both of us.
"And obviously for Sergei as well."
Suzuki won the inaugural "Pitch 'n Puck" event on a golf course in another tape-delayed event where players fired pucks with hockey sticks to the green before putting a golf ball into the hole.
"Ton of fun," said the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, who's around a 10 handicap in golf. "Made a nice putt."
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid went 8-for-8 in the shooting accuracy competition, but was bested by Calgary Flames centre Nazem Kadri in the semifinals of the time-based challenge.
New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson bested Kadri in the final.
"Really liked it," McDavid, who leads the NHL with 41 goals and 92 points in just 50 games this season, said of the event. "I wanted to do something to show I can shoot the puck a little bit."
Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov won the fastest skater over Los Angeles Kings forward Kevin Fiala with a time of 13.699 in his first all-star appearance.
Svechnikov was thankful McDavid decided to skip the event.
"He would definitely beat me," Svechnikov said of the three-time winner.
Canadian women's stars Emily Clark, Rebecca Johnston and Sarah Nurse, along with U.S. counterparts Alex Carpenter and Hilary Knight were also part of Friday's action.
Nurse provided a highlight to the sluggish, inaugural "Tendy Tandem" event with a nice one-handed breakaway effort on Shesterkin. Winnipeg's Connor Hellebuyck and Nashville's Jusse Saros picked up the victory.
"I didn't think about it until afterwards," Nurse said of scoring on the reigning Vézina Trophy winner.
"I was just like, 'Attack the day.'"
OVECHKIN, CROSBY BLOWN AWAY BY MCDAVID
Ovechkin continues to chase Wayne Gretzky's all-time goal total of 894.
The 37-year-old currently sits with 32 in 52 games this season to give him 812 for his career.
But Ovechkin is also paying close attention to McDavid's eye popping numbers in 2022-23.
"He's from a different planet," Ovechkin said. "It's not one player and one year. He's consistently doing it — every year.
"It's cool to see."
Crosby is equally impressed by McDavid's 150-point pace after he put up 123 last season.
"Just finds a way to get better," said the 35-year-old. "He's dominating. He has a year (like 2021-22) and you think, 'OK it's gonna be hard to beat.' And then he comes this year and does the same thing and he's better.
"He just continues to get better … when it's a guy like that, it's scary."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press