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Wednesday, January 24, 2007
MVP Briere scores game's first goal, adds four assists

Associated Press

DALLAS -- With the third period ticking away and the Eastern Conference heading for defeat, about the last thing on the mind of Buffalo's Daniel Briere's was winning the NHL All-Star Game MVP.

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"My impression was that it was going to go to someone on the winning team," Briere said. "When the cameras started coming around me, I thought maybe I had a chance."

Briere's five-point game -- a goal and four assists -- wasn't enough to lead the East to a victory, but it did earn him All-Star MVP in the West's 12-9 victory Wednesday night.

Briere fell one point short of matching Mario Lemieux's record for points in a game set in 1988. Briere and seven others have finished with five points in an All-Star Game.

"I had no clue that six points was the record," Briere said. "You know when you're playing the game, you're getting assists when guys are finishing. I knew I was up to the five. But it wasn't something I thought about."

For the fourth consecutive time, the game's MVP came from the losing team. Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche was the MVP in 2004, the last time the game was played. The Eastern Conference took a 6-4 victory over Sakic's Western Conference in 2004, with Sakic scoring three goals.

Dany Heatley was the MVP in the Eastern Conference's 6-5 loss in 2003 and Eric Daze captured the award in 2002 when the World All-Stars beat Daze's North American All-Stars, 8-5.

One of three Sabres in the starting lineup, Briere scored the game's first goal at 3:38 of the first period. That took care of any early-game jitters.

"It was good to get that first goal out of the way early on," Briere said. "After that you say, 'This is cool, I can just go out there and don't have to force my play.' I knew I could just make the easy and expected play."

He assisted on second-period goals by Zdeno Chara and Alex Ovechkin, then added third-period assists on goals by Heatley and Chara.

Briere is the Sabres' leading scorer with 57 points, including a career-high 39 assists.

Briere encountered travel problems Monday, barely arriving in time for the Eastern Conference practice. But he wasn't going to let that ruin his All-Star experience.

"I came in here trying to enjoy the whole week," Briere said. "... There was a lot of frustration on Monday until I got here. Having the chance to make it just in time for practice and the team picture, from that moment on everything turned around."

There were several other MVP candidates in the Western Conference's 12-9 victory.

Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Brian Rolston of the Minnesota Wild each had two goals and two assists while Martin Havlat of the Chicago Blackhawks had two goals and an assist. Yanic Perreault of the Phoenix Coyotes contributed a two-goal game, with Sakic and Marian Hossa registering four assists each.

But Briere put on enough of a show to sway the voters.

"Daniel was the star, and he deserved it," said goaltender Ryan Miller, Briere's Sabres teammate. "He had a great night of productivity and was key on some great plays."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was the Eastern Conference coach, and he put Briere on a line with Heatley and Hossa. The trio accounted for two goals and 10 assists.

Ruff was unaware that Briere was closing in on an All-Star record. If he had, he probably would have given Briere an extra shift or two down the stretch.

"I had no idea at the end of the game how many points he had," Ruff said. "That was a very special night for him."