TAMPA, Fla. – Seconds, fewer than nine to be exact, separated Wild center Eric Staal from a first-place finish.
But Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo’s run through the passing challenge at the NHL’s skills competition Saturday inside Amalie Arena during All-Star weekend was just a bit cleaner, sending Staal home without the $25,000 prize money but still with plenty of memories.
“I thought I might have had the time to beat,” he said.
The event was one of the more challenging of the exhibition, as the eight contestants had to hit targets that lit up randomly and put a pass over a barricade and into four mini-nets, among other tasks.
Staal was the first to clock in under a minute at 54.679 seconds; Pietrangelo was at 46.61.
“That was hard,” said Staal, who also shot three times in the save streak challenge for goalies. “But it was fun. Once you watch a couple guys go through it, you kind of get a better idea of what you need to do.”
When he wasn’t on the ice, Staal spent much of the night next to two of his three sons on the bench. Parker, 8, and Levi, 6, had the entire Western Conference lineup autograph their Central Division jerseys and also snapped a photo with Lightning star Nikita Kucherov before sitting next to Staal in the locker room after the event.
“I have been fortunate to win a Stanley Cup, to play in All-Star Games in the past, to do all these things,” Staal said.
“But my kids have no idea. They can see pictures. They can watch videos and stuff, but they weren’t there. So now, ‘Hey, Dad’s actually OK. He’s pretty good. He’s in the All-Star Game.’ For me, that’s cool.”
Connor McDavid (Oilers) was the fastest skater, circling the rink in 13.454 seconds.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (Golden Knights) had the longest save streak with 14 consecutive stops.
Johnny Gaudreau (Flames) won the puck-control relay in 24.650 seconds, Alex Ovechkin (Capitals) clocked in with the hardest shot at 101.3 mph and Burnsville native Brock Boeser (Canucks) captured the accuracy shooting contest in 11.136 seconds.
“It was a blast,” Boeser said.
Clarity on what constitutes goaltender interference could be arriving soon.
On the heels of week in which disputed goals were taken away from two of the NHL’s highest-profile stars in the Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews and the Oilers’ Connor McDavid, league personnel met to discuss the topic and a memo will be sent out to officials to remind them the coach’s challenge is used to determine whether an infraction was missed rather than searching for a reason to overturn the initial ruling.
“Take a good look,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “But don’t search it to death. … The presumption should be the call on the ice was good unless you have a good reason to overturn it. ”
Around the league
• The 2019 All-Star Game will be in San Jose on Jan. 27, the first time the city’s hosted the event since 1997.
• Next season’s international schedule will include preseason games for the Devils in Switzerland and Oilers in Germany, both against local teams. The teams will also meet up in Sweden for the regular-season opener. Later in November, the Jets and Panthers will square off in Finland for a pair of games..