The New York Islanders, unbeaten in their last seven games, are the National Hockey League's hottest team. Some of the heat spilled over tonight, as Bryan Trottier converted Mike Bossy's pass at 3:05 of sudden-death overtime to give the Prince of Wales Conference a 4-3 victory over the Campbell Conference in the 38th NHL All-Star Game.
Bossy threaded a pass between the legs of Edmonton's Paul Coffey at the finish of a two-on-one breakaway and the puck struck Trottier's skate and skidded past goalie Andy Moog of Edmonton.
"I missed it," Trottier said of his first goal in seven all-star games. "The puck popped over my stick, hit my skate and went in. It'll sound like an end-to-end breakaway in a few years, though."
Trottier's goal gave the Wales its third straight victory and one that produced exceptional drama after 57 relatively nondescript minutes during which the Wales nurtured a 2-1 lead.
Each team was a man short when Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky converted a Coffey pass to create a 2-2 tie with 2:51 left in regulation time. The goal came moments after Gretzky had hit a post.
Just 29 seconds later, Philadelphia's Brian Propp took a headman pass from Larry Robinson of Montreal and beat Moog on a power-play breakaway to give the Wales a 3-2 margin.
With 1:15 on the clock, Washington's Mike Gartner hooked down Dale Hawerchuk of Winnipeg, averting a breakaway but giving the potent Campbell offense an extra-man chance.
Hawerchuk converted it with 43 seconds left, taking two pokes at the puck after Chicago's Denis Savard put it on his stick in the crease.
"I felt I had to take that penalty because he was going in alone on the goaltender," Gartner said. "But I was very happy when Trots took me off the hook."
The excitement continued at a madcap pace in overtime. Quebec's Michel Goulet stole the puck from Coffey and went in on a breakaway, but Moog stopped him. At the other end, Washington's Rod Langway sent the puck around the boards and Gretzky intercepted it, only to be stopped by goaltender Bob Froese of Philadelphia.
There was no argument on the winning goal, although had this been a Stanley Cup game there probably would have been many claims that the puck was deliberately kicked in.
"If he (referee Ron Wicks) had washed that out, I think 40 guys would have been after him, and the Campbells would have been there first, because they were closest," Trottier said.
Had the teams played 1 minute 55 seconds more without scoring, the ice would have been resurfaced and a 20-minute sudden-death period begun.
"When I heard that, I was going to wave the white flag," Langway said. "It was very hot out there and we hoped to end it early. Everyone played tough the whole way through."
This was only the second all-star game to go into overtime and the most valuable player was the starting Campbell goalie, Grant Fuhr of Edmonton, who stopped all 15 shots he faced in the first 31 minutes.
The last time a losing player was selected as MVP was in the other overtime game, in Buffalo in 1978, when the Sabres' Gil Perreault scored the winner for the Wales and Campbell goalie Bill Smith of the Islanders took away the car.
There was considerable sentiment for Propp tonight, but he said, "I thought I had a good chance to win, but Grant deserved it. He played exceptionally well during the first half of the game." Told that Fuhr would have voted for him, Propp said, "Well, okay, if he wants to give me the car he can."
This game contained a bit more intensity than most all-star contests and it even featured a few solid checks. The most notable came when Buffalo's Mike Ramsey blindsided Gretzky as he crossed the Wales blueline in the third period. Gretzky limped off the ice, but returned for his next shift and looked as healthy as ever.
"I just stood up on him," said Ramsey, who was high-sticked moments later by Edmonton's Kevin Lowe. "He was right on the blueline, where he likes to make a play, and I didn't want to let him go. But it wasn't a hard check. It was just a check, no big deal."
"It was just a Charley-horse and it's all right," Gretzky said. "I was somewhere where I shouldn't have been and he made a good body check."
Earlier, rookie winger Wendel Clark of Toronto flattened two Wales players, Mark Howe of Philadelphia and Trottier.
"This was a closer game and it wasn't all-out 100 percent offense like some," Gartner said. "I hope the fans liked it. I think it was a better hockey game than we're used to playing here."
"Both teams really wanted it," Trottier said. "They worked hard to come back each time we got ahead. I'm glad they didn't get one more chance."