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Western Conference beats Eastern Conference despite MVP Briere's five points

The Canadian Press
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Buffalo Sabres\' Eastern Conference forward Daniel Briere (48) scores against Vancouver Canucks\' Western Conference goaltender Roberto Luongo (1) in the first period. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Author: The Hockey News

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Western Conference beats Eastern Conference despite MVP Briere's five points

The Canadian Press
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Daniel Briere had a goal and four assists Wednesday night but his Eastern Conference team lost 12-9 to the Western Conference in the 55th NHL all-star game at American Airlines Center. The Buffalo Sabres centre was named MVP after putting up the second-highest points total in all-star game history - not bad for a guy who was somewhat of an afterthought as the third forward voted to start alongside Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.

After taking the obligatory opening shift with his more celebrated linemates, Briere was shuffled to a new line with Marian Hossa and Dany Heatley. Briere rekindled the magic he first found alongside Heatley with Team Canada at the 2003 and 2004 IIHF world championships, opening the scoring 3:38 into the game on a backdoor play after a cross-crease pass by Heatley.

Yanic Perreault and Brian Rolston scored two goals each for the Western winners and their makeshift checking line with Bill Guerin shut down Crosby's line.

The much-anticipated magic show of Crosby and Ovechkin never materialized. The second-year dynamos skated together for the first time and it showed. There was little chemistry in their play and some passes seemed forced as each tried to set up the other on a line with old goat Brendan Shanahan.

"I think we were both looking for each other a lot," said Crosby. "Sometimes your passes aren't what you'd do in a normal game."

The 19-year-old Crosby was pointless in his first career all-star game, which wasn't a first by any means. A 19-year-old Wayne Gretzky was also shut out in his first all-star game in 1980.

"That definitely makes me feel a little better," Crosby said with a laugh. "Maybe I'll sleep easier tonight, but it would be nice to get one eventually."

Ovechkin did score a goal, the Washington Capitals winger flipping a rebound past Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff at 13:32 of the second period while overextending his shift and with Crosby already on the bench.

Rick Nash and Martin Havlat also had two goals each, while Dion Phaneuf, Patrick Marleau, Teemu Selanne and Lubomir Visnovsky also scored for the Western Conference, which avenged a 6-4 loss in the previous all-star game in February 2004 in Minnesota.

Western captain Joe Sakic had four assists to increase his career total to 16 in 12 all-star games and pass Ray Bourque and Mark Messier on the all-time list. Sakic also passed Gordie Howe and Messier in increasing his career points total to 22.

Zdeno Chara had a pair for the Eastern Conference, while Heatley, Sheldon Souray, Justin Williams, Martin St. Louis and Eric Staal added one each. They led 5-4 in the second period before the West blew it open with four straight goals.

Briere's five points are the most since Heatley turned the same trick at the 2003 game in Vancouver while also winning MVP honours. Mario Lemieux has the record with six points at the 1988 game.

New Jersey Devils netminder Martin Brodeur was victimized for six second-period goals but made the save of the game, an acrobatic glove grab on San Jose Sharks winger Jonathan Cheechoo.

As all-star games go, this one wasn't too bad at all. It was a no-hitter as usual - defenceman Tomas Kaberle stepped out of the way to let Joe Thornton skate by in the first period instead of rubbing him out along the boards - but there were plenty of neat set-ups and big saves. The players were actually skating hard unlike the YoungStars Game the previous night.

"It was fast," said Crosby. "Guys competed hard for an all-star game."

Nash's first goal 10:40 into the second period was the goal of the night. The Columbus Blue Jackets winger burst through the middle of the zone and around defenceman Brian Campbell before using his reach to deke around Brodeur.

Notes: Mike Leggo of North Bay, Ont., and Greg Kimmerly of Toronto were the referees . . . Grammy-nominated country duo The Wreckers performed the U.S. anthem while vocalist Giorgia Fumanti did a stirring rendition of O Canada. Unfortunately, she also spilled to the ice on her way out . . . Ovechkin was wearing a new Oakley visor which appeared darker than what he was using this season . . . At least one former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League netminder has appeared in every NHL all-star game since 1986. Brodeur and Luongo continued that tradition Wednesday night . . . Next year's all-star game will be in Atlanta and will also be a mid-week event.

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Western Conference beats Eastern Conference despite MVP Briere's five points