In a game that featured several of hockey’s best goaltenders…Brayden Holtby, Sergei Bobrovsky, Carey Price among them…it was none other than a defenseman who made the biggest save of the afternoon.
Representing the Metropolitan Division in the 2017 NHL All-Star Game, hosted by the Los Angeles’s Kings’ Staples Center, Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers helped the Metro capture their first victory since the league reverted to the four division tournament format last season. Appearing in his second consecutive All-Star Game, McDonagh secured the 4-3 victory over the Pacific All-Stars in the final game by quickly reverting to a goalie.
Emptying their net in the final minute of play, the Pacific attacked the net, being tended by Holtby of Washington. With most of the East’s attention on Connor McDavid, Edmonton’s superstar youngster who had two goals on the afternoon already, the puck got to a wide open Ryan Kesler, who had an equally wide open net to shoot at with Holtby forced to the left side of the crease with 17 seconds remaining
Channeling his inner Henrik Lundqvist, McDonagh made the stop, and forced the puck out of the zone forcing the Pacific to regroup. McDonagh remained on the ice for the final Pacific push, helping them hang on for the win.
The heroics made up for a small goof by McDonagh earlier in the final’s second half, when a Pacific shot ricocheted off McDonagh’s skates and past Holtby. Former Rangers and Metropolitan head coach Wayne Gretzky challenged the call, and it was determined the play was offsides, erasing McDonagh’s goof from the record.
Often paired with stars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, McDonagh ended up playing 14:48 in the two games, and had one shot on goal in the final. He set up several opportunities for the game’s two most renowned players, though he did not register a point.
Wayne Simmonds ended up being the hero for the Metro, denying the Pacific back-to-back All-Star titles with a go-ahead goal with just under five minutes remaining. Simmonds scored two goals in the first game, the Metropolitan’s 10-6 win over the Atlantic Division team.
McDonagh will get to partake in the $1 million prize awarded to the winner, but the Metro boys, briefly putting intense rivalries aside, believe they have bigger things awaiting them. Entering the All-Star break, four of the league’s top eight teams in the standings belonged to the Metro, with Washington currently leading the way with 72 points. The Rangers, current holders of the first Eastern wild card, currently have 63 points, two behind Pittsburgh and five behind Columbus, whom the Rangers will open their post-All-Star slate with on Tuesday night.
McDonagh looks to keep his good vibes going in the second half. He currently has 28 points on the season, 26 of those coming via assist. Respectively, those numbers are good for 10th and 7th in the league amongst defensemen. The current captain of the Rangers, McDonagh came over to New York in a 2009 trade with Montreal, two years after the Canadiens selected him with the 12th overall pick in the 2007 draft.
Having played his collegiate hockey at Wisconsin, McDonagh has become one of the most well known faces in New York, becoming the first Ranger since Lundqvist to earn back-to-back All-Star appearances. This is his third year as captain, succeeding Ryan Callahan.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490