USA TODAY Sports Weekly
Hometown hero shines on All-Star ice
SUNRISE, Fla. – Matthew Tkachuk wanted to show off his new home in South Florida as the hometown star at the NHL All-Star Game and he did with a four-goal performance that netted him MVP honors.
Tkachuk became the sixth player in NHL history to win All-Star Game MVP on home ice and was the fifth to score a hat trick in an All-Star Game while representing the host city. He finished with seven points.
“To be honest, I didn’t care about anything other than representing my team and it is a big honor to be one of the representatives along with (Aleksander Barkov),” Tkachuk said. “Being the host city, without everyone saying it, it kind of revolves around us having the home crowd on our side, having the big skills, starting the game, it’s a big deal.
“There was no pressure with it but we felt that we had to do our part throughout the weekend to show what a great place this is and what great fans we have.”
Tkachuk and Barkov got things started just 36 seconds into their first rung of the 3-on-3 tournament by hooking up on a cross-crease opportunity.
Barkov, playing with Matthew and his brother, Senators captain Brady Tkachuk, in their first game as teammates went hog wild feeding the two as they soared to a 10-6 victory over the Metropolitan Division in the semifinal.
“I actually had a lot of fun (playing with them). I wasn’t expecting that,” Barkov quipped. “They are two great guys. Off the ice, especially, and on the ice, we had a lot of fun. You never felt like you had any nerves because you were having fun and enjoying every second. All my passes were to get the puck to them and I don’t think I touched the puck in the offensive zone.”
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.
“It was so much fun,” said Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin, who totaled 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.”
Tkachuk brothers lead Atlantic over Central for championship
The two brothers got the Atlantic Division
started in the championship game against the Central Division the only way they knew how – with Matthew collecting Brady’s rebound and cleaning it up with a wrap-around from in close.
That goal helped springboard the Atlantic Division to a 7-5 victory in the final game of the night.
“It was unbelievable start to finish,” Brady said. “Being able to see him, going to his house for a get-together right away, the skills yesterday and whatever we have after this. It’s a time that is so special for both of us and that’s something we don’t take for granted as a family.”
Barkov became an unexpected third member of the Tkachuk family for the whole weekend, joining the brothers during the Breakaway Challenge in the skills competition and playing on a line with them throughout the game.
“He’s the best,” Brady said of Barkov. “Just getting to know him, I’ve really enjoyed my time with him, and sharing the ice with him is magic because he is such a great player.”
After all of the passes he fed the two brothers, Barkov earned a seat at the Tkachuk family’s table next Thanksgiving – if he chooses to come.
“He always is, I just don’t know if he wants to accept that,” Matthew said. “We have a crazy household but for the first time me and my brother were able to play with each other, he was the perfect linemate for us.”
Crosby, Ovechkin relish being All-Star teammates
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have played dozens of regular-season and playoff games against each other since breaking into the NHL together in 2005.
The longtime rivals and respective captains of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have also shared the ice at All-Star Games before. But with each superstar in his mid-30s, they know this trip could be their last together.
They took advantage of it, with Ovechkin setting up Crosby for two goals Feb. 4 in the lone game of the All-Star 3on-3 tournament their Metropolitan Division team got to play.
“I think we have fun to play together, not against each other,” Ovechkin said, flashing his gap-toothed smile. “Right now, we was on the same team, and it was pretty special, pretty good moment.”
Crosby, who also had the secondary assist on Ovechkin’s goal, did not expect to get the puck back. That’s not unreasonable given Ovechkin has built a career on scoring and is only 82 goals back of Wayne Gretzky’s NHL career record.
“I was thinking I just did my job: gave it to him,” said Crosby, whose career numbers are so close to Ovechkin’s that he has just five more points overall. “I thought he was just going finish it, but he was kind enough to send me a couple back. We had some nice goals there.”