ST. LOUIS — It wasn’t the goal he scored or even the prize money that Max Pacioretty will cherish from his first All-Star Game.
Having Wayne Gretzky on the bench was the highlight for the Golden Knights forward.
“I think he said hi to me one time, and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life,” Pacioretty said of the Pacific Division’s honorary coach. “To hear him get intense and talk about plays and players on the ice from the best ever is something special.”
Pacioretty scored the Pacific Division’s first goal in the final of the 3-on-3 tournament and helped it to a 5-4 victory over the Atlantic Division to take home the $1 million prize to be shared among the 11 players on the team.
Pacioretty picked up two assists in the Pacific’s 10-5 win over the Central Division in the semifinals.
“Guys picked up the intensity and said we might as well go for it when you’re in that second game,” Pacioretty said. “It was a fast game, and guys were willing to block shots there at the end, which says a lot. It was a lot of fun.”
Pacioretty was stopped on back-to-back shots by St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington on his first shift of the opening game and was later denied by Binnington on a breakaway.
But he scored with 3:55 left in the first half of the final to cut the Atlantic’s lead to 2-1.
Pacioretty pounced on a loose puck in front of the net and went forehand to backhand to slip the puck past Toronto’s Frederik Andersen. San Jose’s Tomas Hertl eventually netted the winner with 2:36 to play.
Pacioretty now will turn his attention to the final 30 games. The Knights (25-20-7) resume play Friday at Carolina with five teams separated by one point in the Pacific Division.
“It’s actually quite funny to see all the guys next to me are the ones we’re going to be battling with the last 30 games because our division is so tight,” Pacioretty said. “After this, I kind of have to forget about trying to find them on the ice and try to have that killer instinct again against those teams we were battling with.”
Lil’ Knights enjoy trip
Charley Seiber and Brayden Wisniewski had rosy cheeks and numb fingers after braving the winter weather to skate in the Learn to Play NHL All-Star skills jamboree Saturday.
The outdoor event at Kiener Plaza Park, with the Gateway Arch providing the backdrop, was one of the highlights of the weekend for the 8-year-olds from Las Vegas.
“I think seeing the All-Star Game and the jamboree was my favorite,” Wisniewski said. “I had lots of fun.”
Seiber and Wisniewski, who each started in the Knights’ Learn To Play program and graduated to play for the Lil’ Knights, were chosen to represent the organization at the All-Star Game festivities.
They watched players walk the red carpet before the NHL Skills competition Friday and attended Saturday’s All-Star Game.
Wisniewski said seeing the Stanley Cup was one of his highlights, while Seiber won’t soon forget her meeting with the women who played in the U.S. vs. Canada 3-on-3 game.
“I like (the cold weather),” Seiber said. “I’m going to bring my ticket home and show everybody.”