PORTLAND —Sure, it was an All-Star game.

But with five minutes to play in a one-goal game, the adrenaline started flowing. The skates cut deeper into the ice, the passes smacked the tape just a bit harder, and the shots came at the goalies much faster.

And Bryan Rodney felt it.

The Albany River Rats’ defenseman thwarted Portland Pirates forward Nathan Gerbe’s break toward an empty net with a diving stop in his defensive zone, and then watched as Alexandre Giroux of the Hershey Bears tied the game with 18 seconds remaining in regulation to force a shootout.

“I was just trying to get my stick on his stick at that point,” Rodney said. “I took a couple of steps and lunged at it and kept it out of the net.”

“I didn’t know how close the guy was,” Gerbe admitted. “I was trying to skate as fast as I could, but he got right in front when I was going to shoot and he tipped it … I should have flicked it over him, but I went low and he got it.”

In the five-man shootout, Logan Couture and P.K. Subban scored to lead the Canadian All-Stars to a 10-9 come-from-behind win over the PlanetUSA All-Stars in the AHL All-Star game in front of 5,225 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“We were getting embarrassed for a while,” Rodney said, “down four or five goals. But we picked it up there near the end.”

Couture may have had a little bit of extra knowledge when he advanced on PlanetUSA keeper Alex Stalock in the shootout. The two play together with the Worcester Sharks.

The Canadian All-Stars trailed by as many as four goals in the final frame, but scored four in a row to close out the frame and force the shootout.

Speed was the name of the game at this year’s event.

Speed, and, of course, goal-scoring.

The 1:12 it took both the Canadian team and the PlanetUSA team to score to begin the contest was a record and Nolan Baumgartner and Charles Linglet netted goals 13 seconds apart in the second period to set a record for the quickest goals scored in an All-Star game.

The team’s didn’t quite match last year’s 14-11 affair in Worcester, but the 18 total goals did beat the event’s average (14.67) since it was reintroduced to the league in 1995.

Former Lewiston Maineiacs’ goalie Jonathan Bernier allowed five goals in the opening period as the Canadian starter, but was off the hook for the loss after his squad netted its fifth goal of the game late in the second. He faced just 10 shots in the opening frame, stopping just five.

“It was kind of hard, it was my first one,” Bernier said. “You see those guys, all coming really slow, you don’t know what kind of pace you’re going to have on it. At one point, I was like, ‘OK, you have to start trying more.’ It’s just for fun, and I enjoyed today.” 

Asked if he’d given Bernier any advice before the game, the goaltender’s coach in Manchester, PlanetUSA coach Mark Morris laughed.

“Just don’t get hurt,” Morris said.

Besides, Bernier added with a big grin, his payday was better.

“We get $500 to win, nothing if we lose,” Bernier said. “It’s pretty good.”

PlanetUSA’s goaltenders all stood tall, combining to stop 41 of 50 shots.

Brett Sterling and Sergei Shirokov joined a long list of players who have scored two goals in a single period of an AHL All-Star game and the PlanetUSA All-Stars allowed just eight shots on goal to take a 5-2 lead after the first period.

Sterling also tied the career AHL All-Star goal-scoring record with his fifth, and the two teams combined to score the two quickest goals to start a game, netting one each in the game’s first 1:12.

Meanwhile, PlanetUSA goalkeeper Alexander Salak did his best to audition for the National Football league. On a shot from the left circle, Salak popped the puck into his glove with his stick. Instead of playing it back to the ice and out of the zone with his lumber, he dropped the puck to his leg and booted it out of the zone. He nearly earned an assist on the play.

Salak did make it onto the score-sheet in the first, though, with an assist on Sterling’s second goal. He’s just the second goalkeeper to register a point in an AHL All-Star game.

PlanetUSA tightened up a bit in the second and the Canadians started to pull closer.

The Canadians netted a pair of goals 13 seconds apart to begin the second — another AHL All-Star record — to pull within a goal. Veteran Nolan Baumgartner assisted on the first and scored the second.

PlanetUSA netted the next two, but Ryan Keller pulled the Canadians within two at 12:37 of the second.

PlanetUSA had the lead up to four at 7:33 of the third before the Canadians rattled off four consecutive goals, including the game-tying tally with 18 seconds to play.


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