NASHVILLE — Didn’t take long for the Pittsburgh Penguins to make their mark on the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.
Just 61 seconds into the first-ever 3-on-3 game in ASG history, Pens d-man Kris Letang scored — on an assist from Pittsburgh teammate Evgeni Malkin — to give the Metropolitan Division a quick 1-0 lead over the Atlantic.
Letang beat Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo for the opening tally, setting the stage for what proved to be an entertaining opening 10 minutes of action. Both teams seemed slightly tentative at times, but the new competitive format proved to be much more entertaining than the previous incarnations — while still retaining some of the parts of actual, real-life hockey.
(There were even a couple of back-checks in the opening 10 minutes, which was a sight to behold).
The L.A. Kings will have some added toughness in their lineup coming out of the All-Star break.
Kyle Clifford, who’s been out since early December with an upper-body injury, has been recalled from his conditioning assignment and should be ready to re-join the team when it gets back into action on Tuesday in Arizona.
Clifford has missed the last 23 games with his ailment. Prior to getting hurt, he had just three points and 28 PIM in 26 games, but has emerged over the last few years as a rugged, dependable checking forward that’s not afraid to fight.
The 25-year-old has scrapped four times this season, and set a career-high of 18 tilts during the 2010-11 campaign.
NASHVILLE — It hasn’t been a banner year, production-wise, for John Tavares — but on Saturday night in Nashville, he was decidedly on point.
Tavares won the Accuracy Shooting contest at the ASG Skills Competition, hitting four targets in five attempts in 12.294 seconds to edge out Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski for the crown.
The Isles captain has 34 points in 44 games this year, which isn’t terrible production, but is below his usual average. His 0.77 points-per-game clip this season is his lowest since breaking in as a rookie in 2009-10.
NASHVILLE — This year’s Breakaway Challenge might’ve been the best in ASG Skills Competition history.
Led by a pair of colorful blueliners — San Jose’s Brent Burns and Montreal’s P.K. Subban — this year’s contest was a pretty entertaining affair, capped off with Subban paying tribute to the oldest All-Star and future Hall of Famer, Jaromir Jagr.
Also starring? Colorado’s Matt Duchene, Burns’ kid (Jagger) and Dierks Bentley, who had a pretty nice finish.
NASHVILLE — They say the NHL is a young man’s game, and Dylan Larkin is the youngest player at this year’s All-Star Game.
So you see where this is going.
Larkin started Saturday night’s Skills Competition with a bang, winning the fastest skater competition with a 12.984 second effort, then beating Mike Gartner’s fastest lap record — a mark that’s stood for 20 years.
Larkin, 19, beat Gartner’s record of 13.38 seconds, set during the 1996 All-Star weekend in Boston.
Related: Larkin admits it’s ‘kinda crazy’ to hear the Yzerman comparisons