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.