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Slap shots


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001

FINAL HORN: When Florida's Pavel Bure didn't show up in the locker room after last weekend's All-Star Game in Denver, most figured he cut out a back door to avoid the media.

Bure cut out all right. He left the bench before the game was over.

The Russian Rocket apparently wanted to catch a 4:30 p.m. flight from Denver to Miami. But with the game, which started at 1 p.m., running late because of extended intermissions and 26 goals, Bure took off.

"No, no flight," Bure said. "I've had problems with my groins and I felt something. When you don't play a lot, you get cold, so I just didn't want to take any chances."

"If anybody is going to be mad at anybody, I told the league to be mad at me," Panthers coach Duane Sutter said. "I told him to take the 4:30 flight. Who's to know the game is going to be 3 1/2 hours long."

KING OF . . . STOP: After Penguins wing Alexei Kovalev scored his second goal against the Flyers on Wednesday, he made a promise to his teammates.

"I told them, "You'll see Michael Jackson dance if I score a third one,' " he said.

Sure enough, 12:31 into the third, Kovalev scored his 30th of the season and launched into a Russian moonwalk.

Reviews were mixed.

"I still think he has to work on it if he wants to be called the King of Pop," Penguins defenseman Ian Moran said.

"I don't know," Kovalev said. "I gotta go home and watch it and see."

BETTER WITH AGE: It took 12 years for Coyotes goaltender Sean Burke to get back to the All-Star game after his initial appearance in 1989 with the Devils.

Twenty-six players from that game have retired, which prompted Burke to say, "God, I feel old."

WILD ON TAMPA BAY: Most Minnesota players brought their families to the Tampa Bay area during the All-Star break and for Tuesday's game against the Lightning. The Lightning severely outplayed the Wild for two periods before Minnesota scored three third-period goals in a 4-2 victory.

Asked about the slow start, Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said: "We looked like we had a little sand in our skates."

POLITE FIGHT: Edmonton tough guy Georges Laraque always asks opponents if they want to fight. If they don't, he goes away. Dallas' Sami Helenius took him up on it Wednesday and was crushed with a roundhouse left.

"I couldn't believe he was still standing when I hit him," Laraque said. "I looked at him and said, "Are you kidding?' He's one tough guy."

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