OTTAWA – Zdeno Chara brought his laser shot back to the rink where he once was a fan favourite and put on a show at the NHL all-star skills competition.
The six-foot-nine defenceman fired a 108.8 miles per hour bullet to win the hardest shot competition while Scotiabank Place fans cheered loudest for Ottawa Senators past and present on Saturday night.
The Boston Bruins captain beat the 105.9 mph shot he used to win the event at last year’s all-star game in Carolina.
It came in a losing cause for the all-star team he captains, Team Chara, as Team Alfredsson led by Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson won the night with a total score of 21-12 after competitions in five categories.
Chara, who patrolled the Senators blue-line for five seasons from 2001 to 2006 before joining the Bruins, got a standing ovation.
“I want to do my best every year,” said Chara. “But I was surprised when I saw the number.
“It’s pretty high. I’m happy I could do it in Ottawa for the fans in a place I used to play. It’s hard. Guys shoot the puck harder and harder all the time, so it’s tough to win.”
Chara beat out Shea Weber, Team Alfredsson’s top shooter, who had a 106.0 mph blast. Several players feel the 110 mph mark may be passed in future skills competitions.
The skills night is a highlight of all-star weekend leading into the game on Sunday afternoon, which features Alfredsson and three other Senators as well as several fellow Swedish players from around the league against Chara’s equally talented squad.
The crowd whooped as Alfredsson and fellow Senator Jason Spezza both topped 100 mph to win their head-to-head matchups with Denis Wideman of Washington and the loudly-booed Dion Phaneuf of Toronto respectively.
“That was our goal,” said Spezza. “We felt as long as we could get into triple digits it would be respectable.”
But for sheer showmanship, nothing topped Chicago’s Patrick Kane.
He stole the spotlight to win the breakaway challenge — a trick-shot event — for Team Chara as he donned a red Superman cape and glasses, then fell to the ice, drew the puck across his body and scored with the stick in his other hand.
He got stiff competition from his teammate, Anaheim’s Corey Perry, who threw off his gloves and stick, took out a miniature souvenir stick and still beat St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott with a deke.
“I was going to get Colin Greening to bring it out to me, but then we thought just hiding (under his jersey) it was the best idea,” said Perry, who picked up the stick at his team’s store. “The goalie had no clue.”
Montreal goalie Carey Price also made a splash by facing backward and on his knees to stop Flyers rookie Sean Couturier.
It was an emotional evening for Alfredsson, the career Senator who was clearly the darling of the spectators from the opening introductions.
“I’ve been here a long time and to have this, with our home fans who are so passionate and knowledgeable, it’s pretty neat,” the 39-year-old said. “We’re trying to take all the accolades and cheers we get and enjoy it as much as we can.
“Sometimes I wonder if I deserve this. But I’ve had a great relationship with the fans. I’ve had my ups and downs. They’ve seen me struggle, they’ve seen me play injured. I’m very humbled by it.”
He and the others didn’t forget to have a good time, either.
“There were some fun moments,” Alfredsson said. “The Chara slapshot was pretty spectacular.
“A lot of guys came up big for us. It feels good to win. It doesn’t mean a lot, but still you want to win.”
Ottawa’s Greening was given the fastest skater competition even though he finished behind fellow rookie Carl Hagelin of the New York Rangers. Officials ruled Greening’s stick crossed ahead of Hagelin.
A hot contest saw Toronto’s Phil Kessel win his fastest-skater heat only because Phoenix defenceman Keith Yandle lost his footing. The Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick lived up to his name by edging Detroit’s Jimmy Howard in the goalie race.
Another Philadelphia rookie, Matt Read, took the accuracy shooting contest for Team Alfredsson, nailing four targets in 10.2 seconds.
Team Alfredsson led by two points going into the final event, the shootout, where they dominated in goals 10-3 with 12 players shooting for each team.
League scoring leader Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay scored on all three of his shots, while John Tavares of the New York Islanders and Jason Pominville of Buffalo scored two each.
The KHL claims the world hardest shot record as defenceman Alexander Ryazantsev of Traktor Chelyabinsk had a shot of 114.127 mph at that league’s recent all-star game, but they shoot from closer to the target.