Emotional NHL awards

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller poses with the Vezina Trophy. (REUTERS/Steve Marcus)

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller poses with the Vezina Trophy. (REUTERS/Steve Marcus)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

LAS VEGAS - Alex Ovechkin won't just be trying to win the elusive Stanley Cup next year, he'll be battling another rival to win back the NHL's Hart Trophy.

In the closest vote for a major prize at Wednesday night's awards gala at the Palms Hotel, Henrik Sedin had six more first place tallies from hockey writers to deny Ovechkin a third straight Hart. Ovechkin insisted the re-christened Ted Lindsay Award as the players' pick for MVP meant more to him, but the Washington Capitals' usually brash star only issued a personal call to "challenge himself" when camp opens next season.

Ovechkin and many others on the podium were victims of first and second round playoff upsets. The only member of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks present, Duncan Keith, won the Norris Trophy.

Ovechkin did say "it's good for the league" that a new name had surfaced for the Hart, though Sedin won the Art Ross scoring trophy 112 points, almost always a harbinger of the MVP. Sidney Crosby, who is Ovechkin's longstanding rival, was third.

For the Vancouver Canucks, it's their first such prize, while Daniel Sedin followed his brother as a second all-star team selection, the first time brothers had been named since Phil and Tony Esposito 36 years ago.

"Standing there hearing the announcement, it means a lot," Henrik said.

Dave Tippett, fired as coach in Dallas, came back in what many people saw as a no-win situation with the Coyotes and brought order to chaos, winning the Jack Adams Trophy.

"I know a lot of people up here tonight thanked their team owners," Tippett teased. "I'd say that, but there are 29 of them for me (on the league owned club)."

"We were a team no one gave a chance to and we used that as a motivating factor. At the end we did a lot more than people thought. All the adversity made them a coachable group.

"When we went into Pittsburgh and shut out the defending champions early in the year, players looked at each other and said 'this will work.'"

Buffalo's Ryan Miller drew a comparison to goalies who had won the Vezina before a Cup or those who won Hart before getting the big trophy, beating Ilya Bryzgalov and Martin Brodeur this year.

"So we do that in order," Miller said, admiring all the famous names on the award. "I remember getting decks of playing cards (as a kid) and they had the award nominees. That looked so cool and all my heroes are on this trophy."

Pavel Datsyuk captured his third straight Frank Selke Trophy as top defensive forward, but for the first time in five years, he didn't beat Martin St. Louis for the Lady Byng. Both are exceptionally talented and well-behaved, with just 80 minutes in penalties each in that span.

"(Tampa teammate Brad Richards) told me the secret - send good Christmas cards to the referees," St. Louis joked, becoming perhaps the first pro sports trophy winner to read his thank-you speech live from a Blackberry. "I had to play with a bit of a chip on my shoulder as a younger player because I wasn't drafted. Then the rules changed. You have to respect the NHL and what it stands for, the highest league in the world."

Jose Theodore accepted the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance with a heavy heart, after his infant son Chace passed away during the summer from complications of a premature birth. Theodore returned to work and won back his starting job with Washington, finishing 20-0-3

"It brings back some tough memories," said Theodore, who launched a charity drive called Saves For Kids at his son's hospital. "But you realize that giving up a bad goal isn't the worst thing in the world."

In thanking the Sabres for drafting him, Tyler Myers used his Calder Trophy speech to thank the team in retrospect for keeping him down an extra year with the Kelowna Rockets. Teammate Luke Schenn was quickly promoted by the Maple Leafs, who were under different rebuilding circumstances and Myers said he learned equally from watching Schenn in the NHL and adapting it to his WHL skill set.

Keith out-distanced Mike Green and Drew Doughty for his first Norris.

"People looked at me (as a younger player) made jokes about my long hair and no teeth," Keith laughed. "They said I look like I'm from the woods. But I am (small-town B.C.)."

lance.hornby@sunmedia,ca


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