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Skills night brings lighthearted fun

NASHVILLE – P.K. Subban in Jaromir Jagr wig and classic Jofa helmet. Brent Burns in full Chewbacca mask using his 4½-year-old son in a “Lil Burns” jersey to score a breakaway goal. Matt Duchene in a cowboy hat. Standing ovations for the embattled John Scott.

Things were pretty loose in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition Saturday night in Bridgestone Arena. For the record, the Eastern Conference stars won the competition over the West, 29-12, to earn the right to choose its semifinal in Sunday’s 3-on-3 tournament. They will play first, meaning the Atlantic Division will face the Metropolitan in the 5 p.m. opener (NBCSN).

Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly competed in two events, the Skills Relay Challenge and the Shootout. In the first event, O’Reilly struggled to shoot one-timers from a tough angle at the empty goal, failing to score on his first five passes from the 43-year-old Jagr before netting his final two attempts. His team lost its heat. In the Shootout, he was stopped by Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk.

“I wasn’t too happy with that. it’s a tough angle and I struggled with it,” O’Reilly said of the one-timers. “I was talking to Jagr on the bench there. He’s a great guy. To get passes like that from him is pretty special. We were joking around. I asked him when was his first All-Star Game. He said ‘92. I was barely 1 yet. It was funny. We were laughing about that.”

Scott, wearing a generic NHL jersey because he’s currently in the minor leagues, got several huge ovations from the sellout crowd of 17,006. He reached 95.9 mph in the Hardest Shot competition and went 0 for 2 in the Shootout, trying a spin-o-rama that was stopped by Cory Schneider.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Scott said. “I kind of had a feeling after the red carpet outside they were really excited to see me but that was really crazy. I looked over, saw my family and stuff. My heart was pumping. I’m nervous now. I loved it. It was great.”

The first event, the Fastest Skater competition, provided one of the night’s actual highlights as Detroit rookie Dylan Larkin picked up two points for the East – one for the fastest time and the second coming as a bonus because he broke a 19-year-old record in the event.

Larkin completed the course in 12.894 seconds to get the chance at the bonus. To score that one, he needed to complete a full lap in less than 13.386, the mark set by Toronto’s Mike Gartner in 1996. Larkin finished in 13.172 seconds to set the record and draw a huge roar from the sellout crowd of 17,006.

The Breakaway Challenge was won by Subban in a vote done on Twitter. Some unique moves were topped by Subban’s impression of Jagr, complete with long vintage 1992 hair, what he called the “old bucket” helmet on his head and the Jagr salute after he put the puck in the net.

“It’s a tribute to Jags and the great career he’s had so far,” Subban told the crowd.

The Accuracy contest was won by John Tavares of the New York Islanders and a West team won the Skills Challenge Relay. The Hardest Shot was won by hometown hero Shea Weber of Nashville, who fired one home at 108.3 mph. Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin was the star of the shootout, with a pair of two-point goals.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com