By Mark Lazerus, Julian McKenzie and Lukas Weese
Auston Matthews versus Connor McDavid in the final. Two shootouts in the semifinals.
Canadian singer Justin Bieber couldn’t stop smiling behind the Team Matthews bench, sporting a red and pink jacket. Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, Canadian singer Michael Bublé and actor/comedian Will Arnett were close to the action behind the benches, encouraging their teams. Canadian singer and dancer Tate McCrae performed before the final’s puck drop.
Game 1 had a late comeback from Team McDavid. Game 2 featured a goalie duel between Igor Shesterkin and Thatcher Demko in the shootout. Even Team Hughes coach Rick Tocchet successfully predicted on the Sportsnet broadcast in Canada that Brady Tkachuk and Frank Vatrano would score.
The NHL All-Star Game in Toronto showcased fun, memorable moments. In the end, it was Team Matthews who won the final, defeating Team McDavid 7-4 in the three-on-three clash at Scotiabank Arena. Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs forward, earned MVP honors for scoring two goals in the final.
“Just a special way to cap off the weekend in Toronto,” Matthews said after the game on the Sportsnet broadcast. “Can’t thank the fans, the organization, the city, the NHL for putting on a great show for everybody. A lot of fun.”
If you were watching the All-Star Game and taking it seriously, it provided a satisfactory amount of intrigue. Team McDavid erased a 3-1 deficit before winning in a shootout over Team MacKinnon in the opening semifinal. Team Hughes and Team Matthews traded goals before going to a shootout of their own, where Nikita Kucherov drew boos and egged the crowd on before missing his attempt.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 3, 2024
In the final, a matchup between Matthews and McDavid — the faces of the league — continued to provide that drama. At one point, Matthews, David Pastrnak and Leon Draisaitl traded goals within 18 seconds in the opening period and the score remained tied at three goals apiece. But Team Matthews pulled away in the second and final period of the game with goals from Filip Forsberg and Matthews himself.
McDavid was ready to attack the offensive zone with speed to come back from another two-goal deficit. But Alex DeBrincat picked his pocket in the neutral zone before putting the puck in the open net to ice any hope of a comeback. Team Matthews gave all Leafs fans the result they wanted.
All they were missing was a cameo appearance from co-captain Bieber on the ice. But seeing him warm up was still fun.
McDavid’s impeccable weekend continued when he set up a Pastrnak goal, then scored the equalizer in a 26-second span at the very end of regulation in the opener. McDavid scored in the shootout, of course, sending his team into the final. The second game was a little looser defensively, with DeBrincat and Forsberg each scoring two goals and adding an assist, with Mathew Barzal dishing out three assists for the victorious Team Matthews.
But the funniest moment came when Team Matthews’ Mitch Marner had a rather gruesome turnover in the offensive zone. Marner then hustled back to break up the ensuing three-on-one, exhorting the crowd to cheer his effort just as Team Hughes’ Brady Tkachuk blasted a shot past Shesterkin to tie the game.
And while the focus is always on the biggest names, it’s nice to see the less-heralded All-Stars — the guys who, let’s face it, are chosen just because every team has to be represented — come up big. The Anaheim Ducks’ Vatrano had two goals and an assist for Team Hughes, while the Seattle Kraken’s Oliver Bjorkstrand (Team MacKinnon) and Columbus Blue Jackets’ Boone Jenner (Team McDavid) scored in the opener.
McDavid may have won Friday’s All-Star Skills competition, but Matthews can add an All-Star Game MVP to his mantle. He earns points for helping his team win a $1 million cash prize as well.
All-Star Weekend began with the three-on-three PWHL showcase Thursday and a return to the player draft. Friday had the skills competition with McDavid continuing his dominance. The festivities ended Saturday with the fans on their feet, saluting Team Matthews and the league’s top stars.
(Photo: John E. Sokolowski / USA Today)