RALEIGH, N.C. -- Twenty-one goals, zero official hits.
The league did what it could to make this year's NHL All-Star game different. A playground-like draft divided players into two teams, pitting regular-season teammates against one another. Henrik Sedin and twin brother, Daniel, sat on opposing benches for the first time ever.
Then the puck dropped Sunday, and it turned out nothing had changed at all.
A sport that takes much pride in the intensity of its competition cranked out another contest where each team reached double-digits in goals and the only thing bruised were goalie stats.
It ended up as an 11-10 victory for Team (Nicklas) Lidstrom over Team (Eric) Staal in an outcome that couldn't have pleased the 18,680 fans who filled the RBC Center, because all three Carolina Hurricane players in the game -- Staal, rookie Jeff Skinner and goalie Cam Ward -- were on the losing side.
Yet this was a case where the outcome was about fourth on the priority list.
"We all know it's for the show, for the fans. It's important not to get hurt and enjoy it," was how 6-foot-9 Boston Bruin defenseman Zdeno Chara spelled it out.
Chara, who set a record the previous night with a slap shot that hit 105.9 mph in the skills competition, said he would never unleash that shot during the All-Star game because it might hit someone.
Chara shared the Team Staal locker room with the lone Sharks representative, defenseman Dan Boyle. And while Boyle didn't like the idea that his team frittered away an early 4-0 lead, he, too, accepted the All-Star game for what it is.
"You know me, I'm competitive," said Boyle, whose only point was an assist on the final goal with 34 seconds left. "But I came here to enjoy myself."
Will it be tough to get back to regular-season intensity Tuesday when the Sharks play the Phoenix Coyotes?
"It's not tough," he said. "Where the Sharks are at, we're in a desperate mood to win hockey games, and that switch will be back on when we go back to reality."
It's not as if Sunday afternoon's unreality didn't have its moments.
There were some impressive saves among the 70 shots that didn't hit twine. Alexander Ovechkin blatantly threw his stick to try to prevent a third-period breakaway by Matt Duchene, giving Duchene the first penalty shot in All-Star history. But Henrik Lundqvist made the save. And the TV audience had to get a kick out of a linesman's response when Ryan Kessler questioned an offside call after at least one other had been overlooked.
"There was $20 to the first guy who called offside," the linesman explained.
The scoring was spread around evenly with 16 players recording goals and no one getting more than two. Chicago forward Patrick Sharp, who wasn't on the official NHL online All-Star ballot, earned MVP honors with one goal and two assists in the losing effort.
This was Boyle's second All-Star appearance, and overall he said the pattern was similar to his 2009 experience in Montreal -- a game in which he was one of four Sharks participating and coach Todd McLellan was behind the bench.
"It's all fun and games till probably the last five or six minutes, and then we didn't want to lose," Boyle said.
But there were particulars in this game that were different for him.
"To be honest, trying to set up Staal and Skinner, we almost overdid it the first two periods," the defenseman said. "I know one shift I looked for Skinner about five times. I didn't look for anybody else."
And while he wanted to point out there were "a couple sneaky hits out there," he conceded he didn't mind that for one game he didn't have to worry about being drilled into the boards.
"But it's a one-time thing," Boyle said as he headed to the private plane that was flying him and teammate Logan Couture home, "and we have to go back to real life tomorrow and get my head bashed in again."
For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Contact him at 408-920-5940.