Gretzky’s coaching return a success, as Metro wins $1M All-Star prize

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LOS ANGELES — For all the accolades Wayne Gretzky received this weekend as part of the NHL100 gala event, little was made of his ill-fated career as a head coach.

Which made sense, really. Gretzky’s success as a player far outweighed his accomplishments in four years behind the bench.

But, fittingly, the Great One set about changing that narrative on Sunday — filling in for absent head coach John Tortorella, Gretzky led the Metropolitan Division to victory at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game, as the Metro defeated the Pacific 4-3 in the finale at Staples.

With the win, Gretzky’s squad — captained by the reigning NHL MVP, Sidney Crosby — captured the $1 million grand prize.

Though it’s a stretch to say he “led” the team to victory, Gretzky did play a fairly integral role in the deciding the outcome. His coach’s challenge of what appeared to be a good Pacific Division goal proved successful, as it was overturned due to a missed offside.

“Helped us win, right? That was the play,” All-Star Game MVP Wayne Simmonds said afterward. “That was the game changer. That was the decision. Obviously he’s got a great hockey mind.

“He pulls that card, it’s offside, and come back, we score two goals and we win the game, so obviously it was a great decision.”

The official ruling, from the NHL:

At 3:24 of the second period in the final of the NHL All-Star Game, the Situation Room initiated a review under the terms of Coach’s Challenge to determine whether the Pacific Division was off-side prior to their goal.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, NHL Hockey Operations staff determined that Connor McDavid was off-side prior to the goal. According to Rule 78.7, “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the Toronto Video Room, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, determines that one or more Players on the attacking team preceded the puck into the attacking zone prior to the goal being scored and that, as a result, the play should have been stopped for an “Off-side” infraction; where this standard is met, the goal will be disallowed.”

Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Pacific Division.

With that goal taken off the board, the Metro responded by netting a pair of second-period markers. The first came courtesy Columbus forward Cam Atkinson — who, like Gretzky, was participating in the game as a replacement (for the injured Evgeni Malkin) — and the second, the eventual game-winner, was scored by Philly winger Wayne Simmonds.

It was Simmonds’ third goal of the tournament, which netted him MVP honors. Blueliners Seth Jones and Justin Faulk also scored for the Metro.

For the Pacific, Johnny Gaudreau and Bo Horvat continued to click in their second game of the tourney, especially on a late first-period goal that gave their squad a 3-2 lead. Gaudreau and Horvat combined for eight points over the two games, and looked consistently dangerous playing together at 3-on-3.

In the end, though, Kings fans received an amusing finish — the guy that put hockey on the map in L.A., once again making his presence felt.

No mic? No problem: Oilers fans sing American, Canadian national anthems

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There was apparently an issue with a microphone used for the national anthems prior to Game 3 between the Ducks and Oilers in Edmonton.

Canadian country music star Brett Kissel was supposed to perform the anthems, however, as he stepped up to the mic, he soon discovered that there seemed to be a malfunction.

With some quick encouragement from Kissel, fans at Rogers Place stole the show with stirring renditions of both the American and Canadian national anthems.

Here is the Star Spangled Banner:

Here is O Canada:

Sami Vatanen returns to Ducks lineup vs. Oilers

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Good news for the Anaheim Ducks, who trail the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 in their second round series.

Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen returns to the lineup Sunday for Game 3 — his first game since April 13, which was the opener of Anaheim’s first-round series with Calgary, because of an upper-body injury.

However, the Ducks will be without Kevin Bieksa, who is dealing with a lower-body injury.

Predators stifle Blues to take back series lead

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The Nashville Predators have snapped their one-game funk in these Stanley Cup playoffs, taking back the series lead over the St. Louis Blues.

For long stretches of Sunday’s contest, the Predators kept the puck away from and stifled the Blues, including a stretch of almost nine minutes at the beginning of the second period in which St. Louis failed to register a shot attempt.

The Predators’ 3-1 victory in Game 3 was eventually secured on an unbelievably dominant shift late in the third period.

Joel Edmundson‘s (costly) turnover led to a dizzying attack from Predators, who had sustained puck possession inside the St. Louis zone for about 1:10.

By the end, Edmundson and Colton Parayko had exhausted themselves as the Predators tossed the puck around with increasing ease before Roman Josi halted the madness with a slap shot to the top corner, giving Nashville a two-goal lead.

That continues an impressive trend for the Predators.

They have scored nine goals in this series, with at least one defenseman contributing directly with either a goal or an assist on eight of those goals. Nashville’s group of blueliners — including Ryan Ellis, who has been on quite a productive roll throughout these playoffs — have combined for 11 points through three games in this series.

This series resumes Tuesday in Nashville, with the Predators leading 2-1.

VIDEO: Ryan Ellis continues his incredible postseason run for Predators

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Playing in Nashville over the years it has been easy for Ryan Ellis to get overlooked, always playing in the shadow of bigger name stars on the team’s blue line.

Shea Weber (before he was traded). Roman Josi. P.K. Subban.

But Ellis has been a major part of the Predators’ blue line and he had a career-year in 2016-17, setting new personal bests in goals (16) and points (38) while matching his previous career high in assists (22).

He has continued that strong play in the postseason and is currently the team’s leading scorer after he netted his third goal of the playoffs (and eighth total point) on Sunday afternoon to give the Predators a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Blues.

You can see it in the video above.

After being held without a point in the Predators’ first playoff game, Ellis has now picked up at least one point in every playoff game since them and is now riding a six-game point streak.

The first half of Sunday’s game has been a defensive clinic by the Predators, by the way, limiting St. Louis to just 10 shots on goal through the first 34 minutes, and none through the first 14 minutes of the second period.

The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 in the second period when Cody McLeod deflected in his first goal of the playoffs to give the Predators some unexpected scoring depth. He had just five goals in 59 games during the regular season between the Predators and Colorado Avalanche.