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Team Matthews tops Team McDavid for NHL all-star crown; Matthews named MVP

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TORONTO — Connor McDavid owned the NHL's all-star skills competition Friday.

Auston Matthews earned top billing less than 24 hours later.

The Maple Leafs star led Team Matthews with two goals — including the winner — and an assist to secure a 7-4 victory over Team McDavid in the final of the league's 3-on-3 all-star mini tournament Saturday.

The winners will share a US$1-million prize.

Matthews, who picked a roster that included Toronto teammates Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly at Thursday's player draft, was named MVP.

"The whole weekend in itself is special for all of us, especially the host city and the hometown guys," he said. "Nice to cap it off with the win. Everybody goes home happy."

McDavid, the Oilers captain, claimed the revamped skills competition the previous night to secure that $1-million purse at Scotiabank Arena.

"The defensive system broke down there a little bit," McDavid, who had Edmonton teammate Leon Draisaitl on his squad, deadpanned after the final. "We left our goalies hung out to dry."

Marner, who grew up just north of Toronto in Markham, Ont., said the event was something he'll cherish.

"Amazing," he said. "I've dreamt of being in all-star games for my whole life. I've watched all-star games from my couch, my carpet with my parents.

"You always dream of being a part of one, and to have it in the city, it's pretty remarkable."

The intensity ramped up in the final as players got closer to the prize money.

"That last game, there was a lot more speed," Rielly said. "Not just floating around."

Team McDavid erased a late two-goal deficit in the semifinal earlier Saturday before beating Team MacKinnon 4-3 in a shootout. Team Matthews won its opener 6-5 over Team Hughes in another shootout.

Pop star Justin Bieber, sporting a colourful puffer coat, served as celebrity captain for Team Matthews, while Canadian-born actor Will Arnett had the same role for Team McDavid. Canadian crooner Michael Buble was with Team Hughes and singer Tate McRae was behind the bench for Team MacKinnon.

Matthews said the players suggested Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery wear Bieber's threads in the second half of the 20-minute final.

"We were loving it," Matthews said. "If you were up pretty high in the stands, there's no doubt you could pick (Bieber) out of a crowd."

Marner said he was a little concerned that Arnett — a huge Leafs fan — might push to have him on McDavid's roster at Thursday's draft.

"Sounded like the boys had a plan," Marner said. "They all talked backstage and said, 'Don't screw us over.'

"I wasn't too worried."

McDavid said having Bieber, who grew up in Stratford, Ont., as part of the event was special.

"An icon, really," said the native of nearby Richmond Hill, Ont. "What he's doing for hockey, what he's doing for Toronto and Canada as a whole, it's amazing."

The NHL used an all-star player draft for a two-team format in 2011, 2012 and 2015 before going to a division-based setup in 2016.

The league went back to the draft and updated the skills competition in 2024 — the ninth time Toronto has hosted, and the first since 2000 — with interest in the event having sagged in recent years.

McDavid, who had a hand in the planning, felt it was a success.

"It's ultimately up to the fans," he said. "We were here to put on a show, and I feel like we did that. It was entertaining for everybody.

"It's been a working weekend, tiring weekend. I'm looking forward to getting back to Edmonton and getting back to our regularly scheduled program."

DEADLINE TALK

Nathan MacKinnon was asked about the Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets loading up in the Western Conference by acquiring centres Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan, respectively, in recent days.

"It's wide-open," said the Colorado Avalanche centre. "Hockey's such an even sport right now with the parity."

MacKinnon added he'd be in favour of pushing the trade deadline up. This year's cutoff is set for March 8.

"A little longer would be nice," he said. "That's why a lot of the times those deadline moves don't always work."

GETTING FAMILIAR

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet, who was behind the bench for the roster picked by Vancouver defenceman Quinn Hughes, said having Lindholm in Toronto for the all-star week after the deal with Calgary will be beneficial.

"Instead of seeing him (Sunday) in Carolina, I've seen him the last three days," Tocchet said. "Met his family, met his fiancée, his dad. I think that goes a long way in making him understand how the organization will take care of him.

"These three days and being in this setting — more of a fun setting — I think it's helped."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2024.

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