The NHL All-Star Game's format did not disappoint in 2016. The Pacific Division won the first All-Star tournament with a 1-0 victory over the Atlantic Division on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, earning the $1 million prize.
Pacific Division captain John Scott earned MVP honors thanks to his two-goal performance in the semifinals. It was a tumultuous road to get to Nashville for Scott. After fans voted him to be the captain of the Pacific Division, the Arizona Coyotes traded him to the Montreal Canadiens, who then sent him down to the AHL.
Many thought Scott may be ineligible to appear in the exhibition as a result of the moves. However, he got to play, and he played well. The NHL announced the All-Star Game's MVP on Twitter:
Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch tweeted his thoughts on Sunday's event:
This is my favorite All Star Game for any sport in the last couple of years. Thank you, John Scott.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) February 1, 2016
Here's a breakdown of the tournament, which started off as a high-scoring affair and ended with an exciting goaltending display.
Atlantic 4, Metropolitan 3
The Atlantic Division advanced to the finals with a 4-3 win over the Metropolitan squad thanks to a late goal by Canadiens star P.K. Subban with just more than four minutes left.
With the three-on-three format, goals were aplenty in the early going, as the teams combined to score four in the first 10 minutes.
The Atlantic team had many talented performers such as Patrice Bergeron and Steven Stamkos. But one of them was a 43-year-old legend with a mullet. Jaromir Jagr notched his fifth career All-Star goal with 38 seconds left in the first period to tie the game at 2-2. The Cauldron provided a Vine of Jagr's goal:
Jagr scored on a breakaway, putting a move on Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. Twitter not only went nuts but also reached into the joke jar. Deadspin editor Timothy Burke felt better about his youth when he saw Jagr score:
it's 2016 and Jaromir Jagr playing in the All-Star Game is the only thing keeping me from feeling middle-aged— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 31, 2016
Flyers Nation went with a pun:
Moves like Jagr.— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) January 31, 2016
Even though the Metropolitan Division lost, the team potted the best goal of the day. Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin put the squad up 3-2 early in the second period with this insane goal, courtesy of the Wings Nation's Jeff Veillette:
Malkin's goal from the vantage point of the referee pic.twitter.com/FR1H6WMXAO— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) January 31, 2016
Detroit Red Wings rookie Dylan Larkin, who won the NHL's Fastest Skating Competition on Saturday, recorded three assists in the Atlantic's win. One of those came on Subban's game-winning goal.
Pacific 9, Central 6
The drama of whether Scott would be an All-Star came full circle Sunday. He scored two goals in the Pacific Division's 9-6 win over the Central Division.
Scott tied the game at 1-1 just 21 seconds after Nashville Predators captain James Neal scored for the Central Division. The Cauldron shared a clip of Scott's goal, which earned a standing ovation from the Nashville crowd:
John Scott scores, celebrates, gets a standing ovation pic.twitter.com/Ebk8wxBoTm— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) January 31, 2016
UFC fighter and well-known hockey fan Phil "CM Punk" Brooks provided his thoughts on Scott's goal:
Good for you, John Scott. #NHLAllStar— Coach (@CMPunk) January 31, 2016
NHL on NBC also reacted accordingly:
Scott's goal was a microcosm of a high-scoring first period. It was 3-3 after the first 10 minutes, with Neal netting two goals in front of his home crowd.
Dave Ammenheuser of the Tennessean noted how big of a deal this was for Neal:
James Neal was last guy added to #NHLAllStar Game. He's got two goals in 8-plus minutes.— Dave Ammenheuser (@NashSportsEd) January 31, 2016
Scott was also involved in a playful scuffle toward the end of the first half. Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane scored the equalizing goal off an assist from Dallas Stars wing Jamie Benn. Afterward, Kane dropped his gloves and went at Scott. This was all in good fun, especially after Scott knocked down Kane at center ice.
NBC Sports provided a clip of the scuffle:
The Pacific Division captain got the last laugh, however, scoring his second goal of the game with 6:33 remaining and giving his team a 5-3 lead.
Despite trailing by four goals at one point, the Central Division did not go away. Goals by Dustin Byfuglien and Stars sniper Tyler Seguin cut the lead to 7-5 with just five minutes to play, but the Central squad could not trim the deficit any further. Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers scored his second goal of the game late in the second period to send the Pacific Division on to the finals.
Pacific 1, Atlantic 0
The championship round needed only one goal to decide which team would win the $1 million. Anaheim Ducks star Corey Perry's goal midway through the second period was the difference-maker.
After a combined 22 goals in the first two games of the tournament, Roberto Luongo and Jonathan Quick pitched shutouts in the first 10 minutes of the championship round.
The Pacific outshot the Atlantic 12-10, and both sides made fantastic saves to keep the round scoreless. This kick save by Quick was one of the best highlights of the evening, per NHL on NBC:
NHL on NBC also captured this shot of Luongo making a fantastic save:
ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun commented on the epic goaltending display by two of the NHL's best:
Quick and Luongo putting on a show so far in the championship finale— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 1, 2016
Offense was finally on display in the second half, thanks to Perry. He put the Pacific Division on the board with 6:22 remaining on assists from Daniel Sedin and Brent Burns.
Perry appeared to put the game away with 2:53 left by scoring his second goal of the finals, but the officials waved it off because of goalie interference. None of that mattered, as the Pacific hung on to win the inaugural three-on-three tournament.
The NHL has needed something to make its All-Star Game enjoyable, and it may have found a formula to get fans to watch. Also, it helped to have the fan favorite win the MVP award after it seemed as though he would not get a chance to play in the game.
It was a fantastic tournament with a storybook ending.
The only story that could be told after this game was Scott's MVP award. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman presented Scott with the $1 million check for the winning team, per the NHL:
With all the drama surrounding Scott's status in the All-Star Game, there was some curiosity as to whether Scott would hold some animosity toward Bettman. That question was answered, per LeBrun:
John Scott says Bettman at center ice told him: "I'm proud of you." Scott says he has no ill-will toward the commissioner.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 1, 2016
Scott's AHL team, the St. John's IceCaps, were so happy for Scott they even changed their Twitter account in honor of the MVP:
We hear your requests...but we don't think we're allowed to change to the 'St. John Scott IceCaps" or "St. John's Ice Scotts" #NHLAllStar— St JohnScott IceCaps (@IceCapsAHL) February 1, 2016
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.ca also noted that Scott's helmet will be going into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Hopefully, in time, Scott will get called back up to the NHL and make an impact for the Canadiens. Right now, he's a little richer and will get to celebrate with his wife, two kids and the two more kids on the way.