Detroit rookie skates fastest lap at NHL skills competition
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Dylan Larkin is very, very fast. That helped the only rookie at this NHL All-Star weekend make quite the debut.
The Detroit Red Wings forward won not only the title of fastest skater at this event but set the record for the fastest lap around a full rink. He topped Mike Gartner’s time of 13.386 seconds in 1996 — months before Larkin was born.
Larkin easily beat Predators defenseman Roman Josi on the first lap of the first event Saturday night at the NHL skills competition at 12.894 seconds. That time easily stood to win the fastest skater. He then skated a full lap in just 13.172 seconds despite a bobble in turn three because he was going so fast.
Hometown favorite Predators captain Shea Weber won the hardest shot at 108.1 mph.
The Eastern Conference won the skills competition 29-12, giving John Tavares and Jaromir Jagr the choice as captains of which period to play their semifinal game Sunday in the All-Star Game. They chose the first period for the 3-on-3 competition. Tavares, captain of the Metropolitan Division, said they had to give Jagr a chance to rest as captain of the Atlantic Division.
“If we win, we get more rest,” Jagr said. “If we lose, I can fly home right away. I’m sorry Nashville. I’m honest.”
P.K. Subban won the one event — breakaway — decided by fans voting by Twitter, edging out Sharks defenseman Brent Burns. Tavares of the New York Islanders won the accuracy event in 12.2 seconds. The West won the skills challenge relay, and the East finished off the shootout.
Fans gave John Scott, the enforcer voted into as captain of the Pacific Division, a standing ovation when he took part in the hardest shot. Traded by Arizona to Montreal on Jan. 15, and then sent to the minors by the Canadiens, Scott wore a black NHL All-Star jersey.
“He had a big smile on his face all night,” Subban said of Scott.
Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, the NHL’s leading scorer at the break, was booed heavily at every chance. He helped Chicago oust the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
Larkin kicked the night off in record fashion. The rookie might have been even faster, but he said he dug in too hard and skated too fast, causing him trouble with his footing in the turn. Asked about topping Gartner’s mark, Larkin had a quick question in response: “Was I born?”
No. Larkin was born in July 1996, months after Gartner set his mark at the age of 36.
“Yeah, I did find that out later,” Larkin said. “It’s crazy.”
Fans hoping to see Weber set the hardest shot record on home ice chanted for “One more shot” after Weber hit 108.1 mph on his second, just missing Zdeno Chara’s record of 108.8 mph in 2012. Weber hit just 107.8 mph on the third try, finishing shy of his winning shot last year at 108.5 mph.
The event that brought out the All-Stars creativity was the breakaway challenge.
Matt Duchene of Colorado donned a cowboy hat, and Brandon Saad of Columbus bounced the puck off his stick. Subban failed to score after bouncing the puck off his stick and then kicking it off his right foot. Predators forward James Neal used two pucks in a bit of deception, and then brought out country singer Dierks Bentley, who scored on a two-on-one.
Burns had help from two children, his son and teammate Joe Pavelski’s son, with Florida goalie Roberto Luongo arguing with Cory Schneider of the Devils for the right to guard the net. Pavelski’s son passed to Burns’ son, who scored into an open net as the goalies’ fight spilled over to the side.
On his second attempt, Burns had the arena lights turned down. Photos of him growing hairier over the years flashed on the video board to the “Star Wars” theme, and Burns was wearing a Chewbacca mask for his nickname when the lights came back up. It just wasn’t enough hair to top Subban’s final try.
Subban won by donning a long mullet wig in a nod to the 44-year-old Jagr, wearing referee’s pants with Jagr laughing as the Montreal defenseman scored only as Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne lifted his left leg sprawled in front of the net. Subban said he decided on his Jagr tribute at the arena and credited trainers for finding the wig, then adding highlights with spray paint.
He didn’t tip Jagr beforehand.
“I wanted it to be a surprise,” Subban said. “It’s a tribute to the great player that he is.”
Jagr was fine with the funny tribute and has a job waiting with the traveling Jagrs when Subban retires.
“He can be the tenth one ... with the Montreal jersey,” Jagr said.
AP Hockey Writer Larry Lage and AP Freelance Writer Jim Diamond