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Best, funniest, most heartwarming 2018 Skills Competition moments

However you feel about the actual game (or recently, games) that come with the All-Star experience, you have to be a real stick in the mud not to enjoy the skills competition.

The 2018 All-Star Skills Challenge did not disappoint in that regard.

The six events and everything around them brought about some fantastic ribbing from fans to a few polarizing players, many heartwarming moments where players gave back, stupendous displays of talent, and more. Let’s take a look at some of the standout bits.

Heartwarming gestures

Alex Pietrangelo is donating the $25K he won in the passing competition to charity, and that’s likely far from the only great gesture to come from this weekend.

Rickard Rakell spent time with Katie Hawley, a fan who fought off cancer on three occasions.

Brian Boyle, feel-good story of the weekend

One of the best ovations came to former Lightning forward Brian Boyle, who is fighting cancer. Every now and then, All-Star games give us a chance for emotional moments like these.

It prompted Boyle to take a moment to thank Lightning fans specifically.

[Even more on Boyle.]

Follicle follies

As this post mentions, Brock Boeser turned heads because of his accuracy and also because he’d probably be a great spokesman for Head & Shoulders.

His Thor-like mane stole the show, but don’t sleep on Noah Hanifin. Just ask Jack Eichel, who could probably look like that dude from “Workaholics” if he really let his hair go wild.

Everyone’s favorite goofball, Marc-Andre Fleury

Only Marc-Andre Fleury would choose a song from “Frozen” to pump him up during something like the save streak …

And then win it all, edging Pekka Rinne 14-13.

Getting grief

Some of the most fascinating fan interaction moments coming during player introductions. Who will get cheered? When will we hear a pin drop? Which players will be jeered the most heartily?

You wonder if Tampa Bay fans would identify even more “villains” in the next postseason, as they may very well be in for some bitter battles during the upcoming playoffs. Still, it was noticeable that Patrick Kane and Sidney Crosby drew some heat.

Recently suspended forward Brad Marchand might have gotten it the most, or at least he received it most often, as fans booed him during introductions (which he relished) and clearly enjoyed it as Marchand struggled during the accuracy shooting.

However you feel about Marchand, few NHL players were as comfortable in this role:

Fun shots, fun moments

What’s less shocking: Connor McDavid winning the fastest skater or P.K. Subban entertaining us all?

This kid might need to get his shot in the puck control relay, honestly.

Sometimes it’s comforting to see elite athletes struggle (fooling us into thinking they’re just like us), so Marchand’s issues during the accuracy shooting and Drew Doughty‘s frustrations were memorable.

The U.S. women’s Olympic team were in Tampa, which opened up some fun photo ops, like Hilary Knight and Alex Ovechkin (via NBC’s Matt Ziance):

Erik Karlsson, you scamp.

Actually, would a pirate call Karlsson a scamp, or something else?

It’s cool seeing opponents pal around, and it also provides opportunities for old friends to see each other again, like Crosby (and Kris Letang) did with MAF:

Henrik Lundqvist speaks for most of us in simply saying that it was a lot of fun. Yes, yes it was.

More from the All-Star Skills Challenge

Great moments in the past.

Alex Ovechkin wins hardest shot; Marc-Andre Fleury takes save streak.

Brock Boeser wins accuracy competition; Alex Pietrangelo shows off his great passing.

Connor McDavid shocks no one in winning fastest skater; Johnny Gaudreau shows off puck control.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Devils, Hischier agree to seven-year, $50.75 million extension

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While the Devils don’t know yet if Taylor Hall will sign an extension to remain in New Jersey or find a new home next summer in free agency, GM Ray Shero has young locked down one of the team’s core pieces.

On Friday, Nico Hischier agreed to a seven-year, $50.75 million extension that carries a $7.25 million cap hit through the 2026-27 NHL season. The deal buys three unrestricted free agent years since the Devils forward has been playing since he was 18, per Cap Friendly.

“Nico is a special person who possess a team-first mentality combined with an inner drive to succeed,” said Shero in a statement. The entire organization is thankful to him and his family for believing in our future. We are excited that he will continue to play a prominent role with us for many years to come.”

According to the Devils, here’s the year-by-year breakdown:

2020-21: $7,000,000 (includes $3 million signing bonus)
2021-22: $7,250,000
2022-23:  $4,500,000
2023-24:  $7,750,000
2024-25:  $7,750,000
2025-26:  $8,000,000
2026-27:  $8,500,000

The extension also features a modified no-trade clause in the final three years.

In 157 NHL games, Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has 37 goals and 101 points while averaging over 17 minutes a night. His offense has been just fine with a 20 and 17 goals in his first two seasons, but his two-way game is what’s really boosted his talent.

The 20-year-old center joins the list of NHLers who passed on restricted free agency in 2020 to put pen to paper on a new deal, joining the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Clayton Keller, Thomas Chabot, and Sam Girard.

Mathew Barzal, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Dylan Strome, and Mikhail Sergachev are some of the other potential 2020 RFAs who will be looking for extensions before next season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Helm fined $5K for slash on Flames’ Lindholm

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Darren Helm and Elias Lindholm had a little battle in the third period of Thursday’s 5-1 Flames win and it has resulted in a $5,000 fine for the Red Wings forward.

It all began during a face-off when Lindholm got taken down by Helm. The Flames forward took exception and skated after Helm as the puck entered the Calgary zone. The tiff continued on with Lindholm throwing an elbow at Helm, who responded by getting up off the ice and slashing Lindholm in the back of the leg.

“Their guy comes with an elbow that should have probably been called right away,” said Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill. “Then Darren reacts to that as most guys would, you get an elbow to the face for no reason you’re going to react. We got to be more disciplined in those situations, but he slashed him. I don’t think the slash was that super-hard, but it sure looked hard the way he went down.”

The fine is the maximum amount allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Helm was given a major for slashing and a game misconduct, while Lindholm got off with just an interference minor. Lindholm was helped to the dressing room and there’s been no update yet on his condition.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

LA Kings set Guinness World Record for ‘Largest Laser Show’

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The Los Angeles Kings may have dropped their third in a row Thursday night and fell to 2-5-0 on the season, but they set a world record during the first intermission.

The Kings’ game presentation department used 642 lasers as part of the Guinness Book of World Records “Largest Laser Show” at STAPLES Center. So, yeah, they were shutout, but they made history.

For the record, the first-period goals by Casey Mittelstadt and Conor Sheary did not, in fact, count toward the final laser total.

With Thursday being the 20th anniversary of the opening of the arena, which featured a Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band concert back in 1999, the Kings wanted to do something special, so they went and shattered the previous record of 342, per the team.

Now, if only one of those lasers could have destroyed the “cursed” Taylor Swift banner

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Kempny returns to Capitals’ blue line for first time since March

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Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer doing the ceremonial puck drop honors won’t be the only thing Capitals fans can look forward to Friday night. Defenseman Michal Kempny will make his long-awaited return to the ice against the Rangers after tearing his hamstring in March.

Kempny, who was paired with Radko Gudas during Friday’s morning skate, was given a four-to-six month timeline after undergoing surgery right before the end of last season.

“Yeah, I’m playing tonight. It’s been a long time. I’m very excited,” Kempny said. “There was a lot of hard days, especially from the beginning of the rehab, small steps make me happy. I think it’s part of rehab and all the bad is behind me and I’m just focusing now [on] today’s game.”

Kempny knows he won’t be logging heavy minutes just yet and wants to focus on getting back into the normal routine of a regular player. How his ice time is managed will be something his head coach has to worry about.

“We have a range we’d like to have him in and we’ll see how the game goes,” said Todd Reirden. “Obviously he’s fresh, he’s skating really well, he’s in unbelievable condition, so now it’s just to see how it transfers into game action and how his wind is and his conditioning.”

Braden Holtby is back between the pipes are being given a one game “reset,” as Reirden put it. How he fares against the Rangers will either pause the goalie controversy talk with Ilya Samsonov for now or only add more fuel to the fire.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.