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Sports >  NHL

Panthers’ Matthew Tkachuk wins MVP of South Florida’s first NHL All-Star Game in 20 years

Feb. 4, 2023 Updated Sat., Feb. 4, 2023 at 9:35 p.m.

Aleksander Barkov totaled four assists during the NHL All-Star Game on Saturday in Sunrise, Florida.  (Tribune News Service)
Aleksander Barkov totaled four assists during the NHL All-Star Game on Saturday in Sunrise, Florida. (Tribune News Service)
By David Wilson Tribune News Service

SUNRISE, Fla. – The cameras lingered on Matthew Tkachuk for a long time after he finished off his hat trick in the semifinals of the 2023 NHL All-Star Game.

The All-Star right wing sat on the bench, beside his younger brother, while cheers rose from the FLA Live Arena crowd, looking for an acknowledgment from the Florida Panthers’ new star.

Eventually, his eyes rose to look at the big screen and a toothy grin stretched across his face.

He was one of two hometown heroes in the NHL All-Star Game and he delivered Sunrise the show it wanted. His three goals and two assists in the semis – only the second five-point game in the nine-year history of the current 3-on-3 All-Star format – sent the Atlantic Division into the championship, where Tkachuk added another goal to help the Atlantic beat the Central Division 7-5 and win the All-Star Game MVP.

Tkachuk, playing on a line with All-Star forwards Brady Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov, finished with four goals and three assists in the two 20-minute games. Barkov, his teammate and captain, had four assists after he was a late addition to the game as an injury replacement for center Auston Matthews.

In both games, Tkachuk opened the scoring in the first 40 seconds.

The Atlantic started with the Tkachuk-Barkov-Tkachuk line, and the crowd of 19,250 roared as both Panthers were introduced with their usual flourish from public address announcer Andrew Imber.

The sellout crowd didn’t need to wait much longer to celebrate some more: On the first shift, Barkov threaded a pass from deep in his defensive zone out across center ice to Tkachuk, who lifted a shot past All-Star goaltender Igor Shesterkin for a 1-0 lead with 9:24 left in the first of two 10-minute periods.

The Atlantic went on to beat the Metropolitan Division 10-6 in one semifinal. The Central beat the Pacific Division 6-4 in the other.

In his second game, Tkachuk needed just 1 second longer to score a wraparound goal and give the Atlantic another 1-0 lead with 9:23 left in the first. The Atlantic pushed its lead to 4-0 early in the second period and cruised to the finish in a drama-free final.

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