OTTAWA — Henrik Lundqvist has to face shots from Marian Gaborik every day at practice with the New York Rangers. But it’s not every day that Gaborik celebrates by turning his stick into a makeshift rifle.
It was in honor of teammate Artem Anisimov, who did so in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning last month. This time, it was all in good fun in the NHL All-Star Game.
“I was thinking about it before the game that if I scored on Henrik — I wouldn’t do it any other way — but I wanted to do against Henrik to give him a little Anisimov celebration there,” Gaborik said with a smile. “I don’t think he was too happy about that.”
Gaborik was all smiles after a hat trick plus an assist made him the MVP of the game as he and Team Chara beat Team Alfredsson 12-9 on Sunday afternoon at Scotiabank Place.
What made Gaborik MVP-worthy was not just his domination of an exhibition game played at half speed with no semblance of defense but that he genuinely had a good time doing it.
He scored twice on Lundqvist and made it look easy.
“It’s not easy,” Gaborik said. “I was just fortunate to be lucky against him. I think he’s one of the best, if not the best, goalies in the league. But I’m glad I got a couple of goals against him.”
Obviously, it wasn’t a defense-filled affair, and Gaborik shared the spotlight with Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who scored twice. Alfredsson was showered by chants of “Alfie!” and spent plenty of time saluting the crowd.
“I was a little surprised,” Vancouver Canucks forward Henrik Sedin said. “I’ve never been part of a reception like that where a guy has been there for a long time. I didn’t know how much they really appreciated him here, so it was fun to be a part of it.”
There was also plenty of boos for Toronto Maple Leafs Phil Kessel (three points) and Joffrey Lupul (two goals) and Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas picking up his fourth career All-Star Game victory.
But Gaborik was front and center on an international stage and dazzled on a line with Chicago Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa and the Detroit Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk. Washington Capitals representative Dennis Wideman enjoyed the weekend as a whole but specifically marveled at what they did Sunday.
“The whole thing has been great,” Wideman said. “Watching that line of Datsyuk and Hossa and Gaborik out there is pretty unbelievable.”
Rangers coach John Tortorella, who wasn’t too happy about Anisimov’s celebration, was on the other bench with Team Alfredsson. Asked what Tortorella might think about Gaborik doing it, the New York forward laughed.
“He’s just jealous we won the game,” he said.