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East gets a late goal to pull out 8-7 victory

Carolina's Staal scores tying goal and assists on winning goal to be chosen game's most valuable player.

January 28, 2008|Helene Elliott | Times Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- As the oldest of four brothers and first of three in the NHL, Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal knows something about competitiveness.

In Sunday's All-Star game he proved he also knows a lot about performing well under pressure.

Staal scored the tying goal in the third period off a give-and-go with Ilya Kovalchuk and set up Marc Savard for the winner to lead the East to an 8-7 victory at Philips Arena and win a truck as the game's most valuable player.

Staal had scored the first goal for the East, triggering a five-goal flurry that put the home team ahead, 5-1, after one period.

The West came back to tie it in the third period on the last of three goals by Columbus left wing Rick Nash, and went ahead, 7-6, at 10:57, on a shot from the slot by Minnesota right wing Marian Gaborik.

But the line of Staal, Boston's Savard and Atlanta's Kovalchuk took over in the final minutes of a game that became more spirited than expected in its late stages.

"Everyone wants to put on a good show. Everyone wants to have a competitive game," said Staal, a member of Carolina's 2006 Stanley Cup-winning team.

"I thought for the most part, when the game started getting close, it was pretty competitive and up and down the ice."

Alexander Ovechkin of Washington and the East scored twice, both on assists from Ottawa's Jason Spezza, as the teams fed off a lively crowd of 18,644 and let their competitive instincts take over.

"It got pretty heated in the last few minutes," Staal said.

Not as hot as things might get at his next family reunion if he sticks to his plans for his new truck.

"I was saying to the guys on the ice that if I do give it to my parents," he said, "I would for sure be the favorite of the family -- for at least a little while."

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helene.elliott@latimes.com

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