LOS ANGELES (AP) Nikolai Khabibulin”s perfect goaltending in the third period gave his Russian Olympic teammates high hopes for Salt Lake City and left other All-Stars shaking their heads.
“His size and quickness make him one of the top in the league,” Canadian Olympian Mario Lemieux said. “He”s very sound technically. He”s always in the right position.”
With double-digit scoring a tradition in the NHL All-Star game, Khabibulin, the Tampa Bay goalie, shut out the North American team while the World rallied with five goals in the third period for an 8-5 win Saturday.
“You don”t totally expect to have a shutout when you play games like this,” Khabibulin said. “Just like I said before, I got lucky today.”
Markus Naslund”s second goal put the World ahead 6-5 with 1:43 left, and Chicago”s Alexei Zhamnov and Carolina”s Sami Kapanen added empty-net goals.
Naslund, a Swedish Olympian, praised Khabibulin, a possible opponent two weeks from now.
“He”s one of those guys you”ve got to watch to see how good of a goaltender he really is,” Naslund said. “He”s not on the best of teams, but he still keeps it to a low score. He”s truly one of the best goaltenders in the league.”
Could he be the difference in the Olympics?
“Let”s keep our fingers crossed,” said Russian center Alexei Yashin, who assisted on the fourth of five World goals in the third period.
“I certainly hope so,” added fellow Russian Sergei Fedorov of the Detroit Red Wings.
Said Khabibulin: “I can”t really say that this is a preview of Olympics. It”s a totally different game.”
Chicago”s Eric Daze, making his first All-Star appearance, won MVP honors with two goals and an assist for North America. Lemieux and Ed Jovanovski also scored.
Khabibulin stopped all 20 shots. He joined Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Olaf Kolzig as the only goaltenders to play a scoreless period in the last 14 All-Star games.
The 13 goals were exactly half of last year”s total when the North Americans won 14-12.
Vancouver”s Naslund, who had just tied Calgary”s Jarome Iginla for the NHL scoring lead last week, helped the World erase a pair of two-goal deficits.
With a scorer”s confidence, he believed Khabibulin could be outsmarted in Salt Lake City.
“He”s solvable,” Naslund said. “No goaltender can stop everything. If you play well enough, goals will come eventually.”
San Jose”s Teemu Selanne had two first-period goals for the World team while Espen Knutsen and Fedorov also scored.
It took just 35 seconds for Vincent Damphousse to score the first goal, giving the North Americans the early lead. The record for fastest game-opening goal is Ted Lindsay”s score 19 seconds into the 1950 All-Star