MVP Matthew Tkachuk lifts Atlantic to NHL All-Star Game win
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Florida's Matthew Tkachuk was right at home at the NHL All-Star Game.
Detroit's Dylan Larkin had a hat trick, Toronto's Mitch Marner had three assists and the Atlantic Division topped the Central Division 7-5 in the All-Star Game final on Saturday.
All-Star Game MVP Matthew Tkachuk — playing alongside his brother Brady Tkachuk of the Ottawa Senators — had seven points on the day, after a five-point outburst in a semifinal win over the Metropolitan Division. Larkin had five goals in the Atlantic's two games.
“We wanted to get a win for the home crowd, the fans," Montreal's Nick Suzuki said. “They did a good job of cheering on the Atlantic Division. We just wanted to put on a good show for them."
And for the MVP, winning in front of Panthers fans meant more than just winning.
“It's been an honor to play in front of them this whole year and it's great that the other players in the league can see what a great place this is to play," Matthew Tkachuk said. “I'm as happy as can be here."
Arizona’s Clayton Keller, Dallas’ Jason Robertson, Colorado teammates Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen all had goals for the Central in the final. Makar also had two assists.
It was the first time the Atlantic won the All-Star Game, after six previous tries in the divisional format. The 11 players — nine skaters and two goalies — on the Atlantic roster split $1 million for the win.
“It was so much fun," said Larkin, who had five goals in the two games. “I'm proud of how we won it. What a great group of guys ... it was just a great weekend."
Matthew Tkachuk has now been on the winning team in both of his All-Star appearances, and both times, he enjoyed the comforts of home. He helped the Pacific win the 2020 All-Star title in St. Louis, his hometown and one of the many spots that his father — Keith Tkachuk, who was in the crowd Saturday — played during his career.
“I've been very fortunate, the two that I've been in that I know the ins and the outs of everything that goes on away from the rink," Matthew Tkachuk said. “It just made it so much more comfortable for me and extra special."
And this one truly had home-ice advantage. Matthew Tkachuk — the former Calgary standout who picked Florida this past offseason, despite much speculation that he would be going to St. Louis — had three goals and two assists in the Atlantic’s 10-6 win over the Metropolitan in the second semifinal.
It was 3-0 Atlantic after the first half of the 20-minute final; all games under this All-Star format are 3-on-3, 20 minutes in length with a brief break after 10 minutes. The lead got to 4-0 early in the second half of the final, giving the Atlantic 10 consecutive goals; it trailed 6-4 in the semifinal before closing on a 6-0 run.
Larkin scored with 1:06 left to make it 6-2, the first of five goals in a frantic finish.
“It's been a blast," said Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who scored for the Atlantic with 36 seconds left to make it 7-3. “I met a lot of great people."
NOTES: The NHL gets right back to play on Monday with six games, including a home game for Florida — meaning it’ll be a quick turnaround for the arena. ... The Central Division is now the only one yet to win an All-Star Game in this format. The Pacific has three wins, the Metropolitan has three wins and now the Atlantic has one. ... Florida was supposed to host this game in 2021, only to have it canceled by the pandemic. The Panthers hosted All-Star weekend in 2023. ... Attendance was a sellout, 19,250.
SEMIFINAL 1: CENTRAL 6, PACIFIC 4
Keller had two goals and an assist, MacKinnon scored twice and the Central moved into the title matchup. St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and three assists for the Central. Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson had two goals, while San Jose’s Erik Karlsson and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid also scored for the Pacific.
SEMIFINAL 2: ATLANTIC 10, METROPOLITAN 6
The teams combined for a record-tying — in the 3-on-3 era, anyway — 16 goals. Matthew Tkachuk had three goals and two assists, tying a single-game record for the format. Larkin scored twice and Brady Tkachuk had a goal and three assists for the Atlantic. Columbus’ Johnny Gaudreau had three goals for the Metropolitan. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby had two goals and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin had the other.
The next NHL All-Star weekend is Feb. 2-3, 2024 in Toronto.
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Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press