ST. PAUL -- Body checks were few, smiles plentiful, and in keeping with the downward trend in scoring (you may have heard), the NHL's All-Star Game yesterday was somewhat of a suppressed affair. Compared with the goal-gluttonous All-Star Games played 10-15 years ago, it barely rated as an appetizer.
Final score: East 6, West 4, and none of the three Bruins -- Joe Thornton, Glen Murray, and Nick Boynton -- managed a point.
"I wanted to get one to him," said Thornton, noting one attempted setup for Murray, a last-minute Eastern Conference add-on when Ottawa's Marian Hossa was injured. "But, I guess I'll have to wait until [Tuesday] to get him another one."
Colorado center Joe Sakic, chosen the game's MVP, led the way on the scoresheet with three goals for the defeated Westerners. Ottawa forward Daniel Alfredsson paced the East with two goals and an assist, his first strike providing a 2-1 lead early in the second.
Aging pivot Mark Messier, who received the loudest non-Wild greeting from the Xcel Energy Center crowd of 19,434, was the day's sentimental favorite. The 43-year-old said his 15th All-Star Game will be his last, and he is expected to announce his retirement formally upon the completion of the Rangers' season.
A star in the most powerful offensive unit the game has ever seen during the Oilers dynasty days, Messier marveled over the skill of the six netminders in yesterday's game, including the three he faced: Tomas Vokoun, Dwayne Roloson, and Marty Turco.
"The goalie is the most improved position in the last 10-15 years of the game," said the Moose, who showed exemplary stamina late in the third period. "It's changed everything about the game -- how we look at the game, how we now think about changing the game [perhaps by mandating downsized equipment]. Truth is, we could make a lot of changes, and we're not going to be scoring the way we did."
Messier's second-period goal came less than a minute after the West, on the strength of Shane Doan's goal, moved to its only lead of the afternoon, 3-2. Scott Niedermayer slid a pefect diagonal feed down the slot and Messier, camped off the right post, banged in the equalizer. Only 53 seconds later, Gary Roberts knocked home the go-ahead goal, the second of four unanswered strikes for the Easterners.
"There was enough open ice for the guys to put on a pretty good show," said Toronto coach Pat Quinn, head of the East and a proponent of forcing hooking and holding out of the day-to-day NHL product. "What I really liked was how quickly the play turned. These are great athletes out here, and the transition game was the fastest I've seen in a long time."
Boynton, playing in his first All-Star Game, said he repeatedly looked around in amazement, feeling a degree of awe to be included with such elite talent.
"Yeah, pretty much the whole time," said Boynton, who turned 25 last month. "I found out I'd be here 2-3 weeks ago, and I've been pretty nervous and excited. It was a great thing to do, to be here the whole weekend, and be in this game with these guys as teammates. I'll be able to look back someday, and I'll have the sweater to show my grandkids."
Murray, playing in his second All-Star Game, said he turned to Thornton on the bench during a moment when the skill and profile of the surrounding company finally hit him. Imagine a guy like Messier, he thought, with 15 All-Star Games on his resume.
"I said to Joe, `Hey, this is my second and your third -- and you could be here 15 more times in your career,' " said Murray. "And he just shook his head and said, `No way!' "
It wasn't an indication of not wanting to come, said Murray, but rather a reaction to thinking ahead to age 40.
Thornton, who wore a birdcage-like mask the last couple of weeks while his fractured right cheekbone healed after surgery, opted to wear no protection. He'll have the cage on again tomorrow night against the Penguins, and later in the week hopes to switch to a half-visor.
"I didn't think I was going to get hit too much," said Thornton, who logged just more than 17 minutes on 17 shifts and was held without a shot. "It felt great. It was a big load off."