- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2001

NORTH AMERICA 14, WORLD 12

DENVER When the outrageous total of 22 goals were scored in the 1993 NHL All-Star Game, traditionally a defenseless exhibition, someone suggested that the annual game's scoring may have reached a ceiling.

Not quite.

There is no telling what next year will produce, not after the North Americans edged their World counterparts 14-12 in the 51st NHL All-Star Game. No penalties were called, to the surprise of nobody, because there was virtually no physical contact (the last roughing penalty in one of these affairs was 1977).

But the packed Pepsi Center crowd of 18,646 cheered wildly as each of the 26 goals whizzed past six goaltenders three aside who were subjected to complete humiliation. Dominik Hasek was the star netminder of the day and he was burned three times off 17 shots.

"The people who are here don't expect a 2-1 or 4-3 game with all the talent that's out there," said Colorado defenseman Ray Bourque, who played in his 19th All-Star contest. "You really can't ask a guy to go out there and run people around and play stingy defense, that's not the type of player you have at these games. A high-scoring game, I can't think of anybody being surprised about that, including the players."

Billy Guerin of the Boston Bruins was the MVP after scoring three times and assisting on two more for the North Americans. He was rewarded with a new car for his effort. One of his teammates for the afternoon, Mario Lemieux of Pittsburgh, had a goal and assist to give him 12 goals and 22 points in nine All-Star games.

"That's not going to happen in every game during the regular season," Lemieux said. "We had 42 of the best hockey players in the world here and they're all very talented, they can all make great plays and that's why I feel sorry for the goalies. But that won't happen during the regular season."

It was Lemieux's first mid-season exhibition since his premature retirement 3 and 1/2 years ago. He appeared to enjoy himself, despite the enormous demands on his time as the outstanding player in the game today.

"It is special, especially after 3 and 1/2 years and having missed the game quite a bit during those years," he said. "So to be back and to be a part of it once again with some of the young, great players in this league and some of the old-timers like Ray Bourque and Brett Hull is always a lot of fun. It was a very hectic couple days but I am glad I had a chance to be a part of it."

So was Washington Capital defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who at one point in the first period was defending against Lemieux and for a second forgot where he was. Gonchar had raised his stick to block the Pittsburgh star but then had second thoughts.

"It was just instinct, you don't want anybody to score against you," Gonchar said. "You try to protect your net, even in an All-Star Game."

It was Gonchar's first All-Star contest, he had two assists and was only minus-1, quite a feat considering every goal was scored at even-strength. New York Ranger Brian Leetch was minus-6 and he played for the winning side.

"Obviously I liked it," said Gonchar, clutching his game jersey and trying to get temporary teammates to sign it before they left town. "I never experienced anything like this in my life. It was a great weekend, a lot of fun. The game was wide open, you enjoy it as much as you can."

Guerin's five points were the high for the day, but they were not the record. Lemieux holds that honor, going 3-3-6 in the 1988 game. Five others besides Guerin have hit five points, one of them Washington's Adam Oates (1-4-5) in 1991.

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