Sunrise, Florida played host to the annual NHL all-star battle this afternoon. The competition was divided into three separate games. Each game was comprised of two 10-minute halves. The first matchup featured the two teams from the Western Conference, as the best of the Central Division faced off against the best of the Pacific Division. Then, the East Conference would get decided, as the stars of the Metropolitan Division took on the stars of the Atlantic Division. For the third and final game of the event, the winning teams from the first two games went head to head to determine the ultimate all-star champion team. In the end, the Atlantic Division, on the strength of home-town representative Matthew Tkatchuk, sent the Sunrise crowd home happy.
Western Conference All-Star Battle
The Pacific Division started off with all the opportunities. But they had nothing to show for it. Then, on the Central’s first shot attempt of the game, Nathan MacKinnon beat netminder Logan Thompson to put the Central up 1-0. Connor McDavid tied it up just 30 seconds later. Elias Pettersson then appeared to put the Pacific division ahead but in a rare occurrence in an all-star game, the Central division challenged the goal. The referees reviewed and determined that the play was, indeed, offside. Moments later, Seth Jones gave the Central a 2-1 lead but Pettersson tied it up. This time, his goal counted. MacKinnon scored his second of the period to give the Central a 3-2 lead and they never looked back.
In the second half, Clayton Keller started the scoring just 18 seconds in to put the Central up 4-2. Just over 5 minutes later, Vladimir Tarasenko made it 5-2. Pettersson scored again, and then Erik Karlsson scored just over a minute later to pull the Pacific to within a goal at 5-4. But Clayton Keller scored his second of the period to put this one away and secure the 6-4 victory for the Central Division.
Eastern Conference All-Star Battle
The home-town Atlantic Division started off on the right track against the defending all-star game champion Metropolitan Division team. Brothers Matthew (Florida Panthers) and Brady (Ottawa Senators) Tkatchuk were out on a line together. It was the 11th time in NHL history that two brothers had played on the same line. The Tkatchuk boys made the most of the opportunity with Matthew scoring just 36 seconds in, and brother Brady getting an assist. Detroit Red Wing representative Dylan Larkin got in on the action to put the Atlantic up 2-0. Then, Columbus Blue Jacket representative Johnny Gaudreau got the party started for the Metropolitan as he scored two goals 20 seconds apart to tie the game at 2. Some fancy work between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby put the Metro ahead 3-2. Next, the other brother got in the action, as Brady Tkatchuk tied it up for the Atlantic. Montreal’s Nick Suzuki gave the Atlantic a 4-3 lead at the half.
The second period started with the Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy in net for the Atlantic against Ilya Sorokin of the Islanders. Johnny Gaudreau beat Vasilevskiy just 25 seconds in to become the first player of the day to record a hat trick. Crosby and Ovechkin put in a couple more shows with each netting a goal and an assist to put the Metro up 6-4. Matthew Tkatchuk scored again, and then the Lightning’s own Nikita Kucherov scored to tie the game at 6. Suzuki put the Atlantic ahead for good at 5:51. Matthew Tkatchuk completed his hat trick at the 6:49 mark and Dylan Larkin netted his second of the game into a empty net with a minute remaining. To end this one, Boston’s David Pastrnak stole the puck from Ovechkin and skated off with a bit of a laugh. Ovechkin threw his stick down the ice after Pastrnak but the Bruin still scored to make it a 10-6 final. And last year’s all-star game champion team was eliminated.
On to the Final All-Star Battle
The Central Division took on the Atlantic Division in the final round. This one began pretty much the same as the previous game. With Matthew Tkatchuk scoring in the first minute. Brother Brady drew the assist. Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov scored just after the 4-minute mark and the Atlantic led 2-0. Dylan Larkin, having quite an afternoon, made it 3-0 Atlantic to end the first half. Boston netminder Linus Ullmark shut out the Central in his 10-minute period.
Larkin did it again, as he led off the second period with his 4th goal of the day. Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen got the scoring going for the Central but David Pastrnak restored the Atlantic’s 4-goal cushion. The final minute and 13 seconds was full of scoring! Jason Robertson scored for the Central to make it 5-2. Dylan Larkin then secured his hat trick with his fifth goal of the day. Arizona’s Clayton Keller scored to make it 6-3. Then, Seth Jones hooked the hands of Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin. The referee awarded Dahlin a penalty shot. Dahlin missed on the penalty shot but scored seconds later anyway to make it 7-3. Avalanche representatives MacKinnon and Cale Makar tacked on a couple of late goals for the Central. But it was too little too late. The Atlantic hung on to win the all-star game battle by a 7-5 final.
Star of the Game
The star of this one and winner of a new Honda was the Florida Panthers’ own Matthew Tkatchuk with 4 goals, including one in the first minute of each game.
Dylan Larkin with his 5 goals was a close second.
Next year’s NHL all-star game will once again take place in an Atlantic Division city. Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena will play host in 2024.
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