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Briere's 2 goals lift Lidstrom NHL All-Stars

Team Staal's Eric Staal (12), of the Carolina Hurricanes, moves up the ice as Team Lidstrom's Nicklas Lidstrom (5), of the Detroit Red Wings, skates nearby during the first period of hockey's NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, Jan., 30, 2011, in Raleigh, N.C. Team Staal's Eric Staal (12), of the Carolina Hurricanes, moves up the ice as Team Lidstrom's Nicklas Lidstrom (5), of the Detroit Red Wings, skates nearby during the first period of hockey's NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, Jan., 30, 2011, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
By Ira Podell
AP Hockey Writer / January 30, 2011

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RALEIGH, N.C.—Nicklas Lidstrom limited his All-Star losses to a flip of the puck and the skills competition.

The game was all his.

Unfazed by having to pick second in the inaugural NHL All-Star fantasy draft, the Detroit Red Wings' defenseman built and went on to lead another winning team -- though this was the first one named after him.

The four-time Stanley Cup champion and six-time winner of the Norris Trophy, given to the league's top defenseman, was a plus-7 as he captained Team Lidstrom to an 11-10 victory over Team Staal in the All-Star game on Sunday night.

"It's a matter of being on the ice at the right moments, I guess," the understated Lidstrom said of his performance. "They won the skills (Saturday), so I think we kind of came out even."

Eric Staal had the No. 1 pick in the fantasy draft on Friday, the unconditional support of his hometown Carolina Hurricanes fans behind him, and a four-goal lead in the first period.

Still, it wasn't enough to beat one of the NHL's greatest winners.

"Pretty good night for Nicklas Lidstrom," Staal said. "It's fun to get to know him a little bit more ... just doing this whole experience for the first time with him. He played a great game as you can tell by the stats."

Danny Briere, Jonathan Toews, and Martin St. Louis scored during a four-minute span of the third period to lift Team Lidstrom.

Another Team Lidstrom defenseman, Shea Weber of Nashville, had four assists and was plus-6, and Dallas forward Loui Eriksson had two goals and two assists. Boston's Tim Thomas stopped 11 of 15 shots in the third period and became the first goalie to earn the win in three consecutive All-Star games.

Maybe Staal's pick of Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward with the No. 1 selection in the fantasy draft wasn't such a good idea, after all. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, the league leader with 38 goals, scored the one that made it 6-6 in the second.

Ward could hardly be blamed for the four goals he gave up in the first. Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury also allowed four in the opening 20 minutes of a typically defenseless All-Star game. The 21 total goals tied for fourth most in All-Star history.

"I thought I was doing pretty good the first 10 minutes," Ward said. "It was like, 'Whoa, this ain't so bad, and boom, four goals against."

One consolation for the Team Staal: Chicago's Patrick Sharp claimed MVP honors in a losing cause after he posted a goal and two assists.

With the team in white named after Staal, the Carolina fans decked out in red hardly seemed to care that Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin were missing because of injuries.

Staal's club had a 4-0 lead, that was gone before the first intermission, and an 8-7 edge after Kris Letang's second goal early in the third.

Then Lidstrom's club staged its second comeback and grabbed a late lead -- only to have Team Staal attempt a rally.

After Rick Nash cut it to 10-9 with 4:49 remaining, Eriksson sealed it by scoring into an empty net at 18:49. That insurance was necessary because Staal gave the RBC Center one more reason to yell when he made it 11-10 with his fourth career All-Star goal with 34 seconds remaining.

Philadelphia's Briere got one of the injury replacement spots and made the most of it. Briere gave Team Lidstrom a 7-6 lead with 4:29 left in the second and tied it 8-8 at 9:57 into the final period with his third career All-Star goal.

That brought a smile to Peter Laviolette, a co-coach of Team Lidstrom who now runs the Philadelphia Flyers. Laviolette coached the Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup title. Local fans remembered him and that special season well Sunday and greeted his introduction with a huge ovation.

Briere gave Team Lidstrom its first lead, not only of the game but of the entire weekend when he took a pass in the left circle and lifted a shot over Montreal's Carey Price in the second. Team Lidstrom was beaten 33-22 in wire-to-wire fashion in the skills competition.

Early in the second it appeared that Anaheim's Jonas Hiller was in for the same anguish as the other goalies. Sharp, who had two assists in the first period, finished things himself 1:18 in when he took a pass from Philadelphia's Claude Giroux in the left circle and snapped in a shot.

Letang pushed Team Staal's lead to 6-4 at 6:10 by ripping a shot off the post and in. That would be the final blemish on Hiller's ultimately impressive performance.

Hiller made acrobatic moves in the final five minutes of the second to deny 18-year-old Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner and Columbus' Nash. Hiller made his MVP pitch by finishing with 15 saves on 17 shots.

Staal and Skinner, the NHL's youngest All-Star ever, were often fed the puck by teammates trying to get them a goal -- or two -- as fans alternately chanted their names.

With the arena still dark during the pregame buildup, the crowd belted out it's first chant of, "Let's Go Staal." When the lights came up, a snowy pond scene was revealed and children acted out an old-fashioned way to choose up teams -- throwing your sticks in the middle and having a captain pick them out one by one.

One selection drew longtime Hurricanes fans favorite Rod Brind'Amour out from the shadows. The next pick brought out Hall of Famer Ron Francis, who along with Brind'Amour was a Carolina captain.

The next two choices were Lidstrom and Staal, who conducted the unique draft when they split up 36 All-Stars.

That event was the highlight of the weekend. It brought Eric Staal's younger brother Marc, a Rangers defenseman, onto his team for the first time in their lives, but it split up identical twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks for the first time, too.

Alex Ovechkin had his own stick-throwing ceremony in the third period when he tossed his in the path of Team Lidstrom's Matt Duchene as the Colorado forward raced in on a breakaway. That move drew the only penalty of the game -- the first All-Star penalty shot -- given to Duchene against New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made the stop.

Ovechkin also scored a goal.

Staal's top choice of Ward looked more genius than sentimental early on when the players in white jumped out to a 4-0 lead, with Ward standing tall behind them. Team Staal scored all its goals on the first nine shots against Fleury, while Ward was perfect on the first four he faced.

"We started to think, Gee, I hope it won't continue,'" Lidstrom said. "Once we got the first one, we started playing better, too. It wasn't the start we wanted, but it was the end we wanted."

The tide turned when Lidstrom's team connected for four goals on its final 10 shots of the first. Fleury went 5 for 5 to close out the period.

Notes: The previous largest All-Star comeback victory was three goals, set by the North American team in 1998. ... Four other goalies have earned two consecutive All-Star wins. ... Lidstrom leads active players with a career plus-428 rating in 19 years. ... Only five non-goalies failed to record a point, including Toronto forward Phil Kessel -- the last pick in the All-Star draft. Twenty players had at least two points.

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