The Battle for California wasn’t much of a battle at all.
A late add to the schedule, San Jose winger Evander Kane faced off against Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler on Saturday to conclude Week 2 of the NHL Player Gaming Challenge. But the best-of-three contest never saw a Game 3, as Fowler swept the battle of 28-year-olds, winning 5-3 and 8-3.
The online event is in the middle of a four-week run, with games streamed on Thursdays and Saturdays. All 31 NHL teams will have representation, and Seattle Seahawks tight end Luke Willson will represent the pending NHL Seattle expansion team.
No standings are being compiled, as the games are designed strictly for entertainment with the NHL season shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In connection with the event, the National Hockey League Foundation and Electronic Arts are donating $100,000 to the CDC Foundation’s COVID-19 relief efforts.
The Kane-Fowler contest began much closer than the final results would indicate, as Kane scored the day’s first goal 10 minutes into Game 1 and maintained the lead until less than three minutes remained. But Fowler tied with game with virtual Adam Henrique with 2:46 to play, then scored the winner with Ryan Getzlaf with 12.6 seconds left. He added another goal (though not an empty-netter) with 6.9 seconds to go for good measure.
“Evander, you said it earlier — a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey,” Alex Faust, who is announcing the streaming games, joked with Kane after Fowler scored the insurance goal.
“It is,” Kane joked. “We got complacent. We relaxed. We relaxed out there.”
Game 2 was all Fowler, who scored twice in the first eight minutes and four times in the second period in never trailing.
Saturday’s originally scheduled game — Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov vs. Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau — was bumped up to Thursday. The shortened prep time didn’t seem to impact Huberdeau much, however, as he swept his opponent 7-3 and 5-2.
The matchup’s first highlight was likely its biggest, as Huberdeau scored as himself on his first shot in the NHL Player Gaming Challenge. That matched the 26-year-old forward’s real-life career, as he scored on his first career NHL shot — beating Carolina’s Cam Ward as a 19-year-old back on Jan. 19, 2013.
“I usually pass but I got a (good look at a shot) so I just took it,” Huberdeau said after holding the puck on a 2-on-1 rush to take the lead against Kuznetsov.
Boston Bruins left winger Jake DeBrusk and defenseman Charlie McAvoy posted a 2-1 series victory over Arizona Coyotes forwards Clayton Keller and Conor Garland on Thursday in the week’s other game.
–Field Level Media