Gartner's 4 goals lead Wales' 16-6 romp All-Star sub earns MVP honors


MONTREAL -- Someone said that the New York Rangers' Mike Gartner should be slowing down at his age -- 33. But the message obviously was misinterpreted. Gartner must have heard only the part about his age and picked up the pace.

It was the Mike Gartner All-Star weekend, if the truth is told.

Friday, he skated circles around younger players and proved the fastest skater in the skills competition.

Yesterday, he scored four goals and an assist to lead the Wales Conference to a 16-6 victory over the Campbell and earn the Most Valuable Player Award.

His four goals put him in a class with Wayne Gretzky (1983), Mario Lemieux (1990) and Vincent Damphousse (1991) as the only players to reach that figure in the All-Star Game's 44-year history.

Gartner, who brought wife Colleen, 6-year-old daughter Natalie and 8-year-old son Josh with him, wasn't supposed to play in this game. If his New York teammate, Mark Messier, hadn't had back and knee trouble, Messier would have been playing and Gartner would have been in the stands with family and 17,137 other fans watching.

"I had a career night," Gartner said, Josh sitting beside him and watching every move his father made. "I don't think I've ever had a five-point night. I have tried to avoid publicity most of my career, and I guess it has worked. But the best memory from this game will be that I've shared it with my family."

But that's not what happened, and Gartner said he'd give Messier "a big handshake. I've never won a car before, and I've never been in an All-Star Game that my wife and children have all been with me."

Gartner said he had a feeling coming into yesterday's game. He has been hot lately and has 34 goals and 18 assists.

"I thought, well, it's been going in, I'm going to shoot it," he said.

While Gartner was busy scoring a hat trick and assisting on a goal by Washington forward Peter Bondra in the first period, someone, of course, was suffering.

That someone was Chicago Blackhawks goalie Ed Belfour, who faced 22 shots and allowed six goals as the starter for the Campbell All-Stars.

"I looked bad on a couple, but Mike Gartner is a talented, hard-working and very fast player," said Belfour. "I gave him a couple gifts, but he earned most of it."

One of the biggest surprises was that Campbell coach Mike Keenan did not pull his former goalie midway through the first period.

"I knew Mike wouldn't hook me," Belfour said. "This was a game that was just for fun. I had fun out there. I did have fun. Going in, you know it's supposed to be an offensive show and that for a goalie it's going to be like a shooting gallery. Now, tomorrow, when we get back to work, that will be a different day."

Yesterday, Gartner scored twice within 22 seconds. The second one came after Adam Oates' long pass was muffed by Belfour, who had come out of the net. The puck went between Belfour's legs, leaving Gartner with an open net.

"After that goal, Ed smiled," said Belfour's Chicago teammate, Chris Chelios. "It's the first time I've seen him smile all year."

Gartner, of course, was smiling most of all. After scoring twice, he set up Bondra and then scored his fourth goal with 3:33 gone in the second period.

After answering politely through at least six waves of reporters with the same questions, Gartner had his fill of the age questions.

"Age really is a state of mind, and it's not a big deal to me," he said. "Carlton Fisk just signed for his 22nd season. I don't feel old. I take good care of myself. I don't feel any different from the way I felt 10 years ago. I guess the Lord is looking down and has just decided I'm supposed to play hockey.

"After all, I get paid a lot of money to do exactly what I did," Gartner continued. "I expect it out of myself, and I don't see why it shouldn't be expected."

The first period was relatively easy for Wales goalie Patrick Roy, who stopped all 11 Campbell shots.

Campbell star Jeremy Roenick prevented a shutout with 5:52 gone in the second period, but by then the score was 9-1.

Mark Recchi scored the first of his two goals to make it 10-1, and then Kelly Kisio made it 10-2 with 9:45 to play.

Pittsburgh's Kevin Stevens and the New York Islanders' Pierre Turgeon added goals to end the period at 12-2.

The game's 22 goals were an All-Star record, as were the Wales' 16 goals. The teams combined for 90 shots, also a record.

Turgeon, who went on to score a hat trick, continually tried to set Gartner up for the record-setting fifth goal, but Gartner, a rival in the regular season, could not find the net again.

"The guys were trying to help me, but Jon Casey made some great saves," Gartner said of his chances late in the third period. "It would have been nice, but how can I complain after a night like this?"

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