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All-Star Notebook: Vancouver's Boeser is the weekend's best

TAMPA, Fla. — Brock Boeser insists he was nervous. Sure didn't show it here this weekend.

The Vancouver rookie won the Accuracy Shooting contest at Saturday's skills competition and became the first rookie since Mario Lemieux in 1985 to win most valuable player honors at the NHL All-Star Game Sunday in Amalie Arena.

Boeser had a goal in each game, including the game-winner in the Pacific Division's 5-2 win over the Atlantic in the championship game of the 3-on-3 tournament.

"I had some sweat going down my palms yesterday before the shooting contest," said Boeser, 20. "But I think once you get here and meet the guys and have some laughs it’s easier to enjoy the experience. I wasn’t as nervous about today. Just have fun, smile and enjoy playing hockey. That’s what I did."

Boeser is seventh in the NHL with 24 goals and leads all rookies in that department. He was drafted out of Waterloo (Iowa) in the United States Hockey League and spent the last two years at the University of North Dakota.

Boeser scored four goals in nine games for Vancouver last season and has broken out this year with 43 points in 46 games (24 goals, 19 assists).

"It's gone pretty well," he said. "My first goal this year was to make the team and after that I had some personal goals. I wouldn’t be here today without my teammates and without my linemates back in Vancouver (the Sedin twins), so I have to give a lot of credit to them. They’re the reason I’m having success. Hopefully I keep having that success in the second half."

Boeser's haul for the weekend included a new Honda car and a $212,500 entry-level bonus for being the MVP. He also got around $100,000 for being part of the winning team that split $1 milllion and $25,000 for winning the Accuracy Shooting contest.

"I was pretty shocked," he said. "I would never have expected that. There’s so many guys on our team that could have gotten MVP."

* * *

Here's a recap of the games, which were played in two 10-minute halves:

Semifinal 1: Pacific 5, Central 2 — The Pacific scored all five of its goals in the second half, breaking a 2-2 tie on Vancouver rookie Brock Boeser's goal with 1:46 left and then adding empty-net goals from San Jose's Brent Burns and Vegas' James Neal to advance to the final. Connor McDavid had four assists in the game while Neal was the only player on either side to score twice.

A goal at 1:47 by Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon opened the scoring for Central and that 1-0 lead held up for nearly 12 1/2 minutes before McDavid fed Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty for a breakaway goal that tied the score. Chicago's Patrick Kane, the South Buffalo native, had a game-high four shots on goal but did not register a point for Central.

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Semifinal 2: Atlantic 7 Metro 4 — Jack Eichel scored the tiebreaking goal and added two assists while Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov collected a hat trick as the host division scored five goals in the second half to pull away. Eichel, Brad Marchand and Kucherov tallied in a 66-second span late in the period to snap a 4-4 tie. Erik Karlsson had three assists for Atlantic. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist apiece for Metro.

Championship: Pacific 5, Atlantic 2 — Anaheim's Rickard Rakell scored a pair of goals and added an assist as the Pacific clinched the title. Rakell opened the scoring after 59 seconds and the Pacific led for keeps. Boeser, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Johnny Gaudreau all added two points in the game. Detroit's Mike Green had both goals for the Atlantic.

Since the 3-on-3 format was introduced in 2016, the top scorers are Gaudreau (4-6—10), Burns (2-7—9 in 6 GP) and Doughty (4-5—9). They've all played six games, as the Pacific beat the Central, 1-0, in the 2016 final in Nashville and lost to the Metropolitan, 4-3, last year in Los Angeles.

* * *

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper rolled out all four of his Lightning players in the starting lineup for the opening game. It was Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal with Steven Stamkos,  Kucherov and Brayden Point up front.

"Kind of like a proud dad a little bit," Cooper said. "I know the fans were probably wanting to see it. It was four deserving guys. It's an honor to be elected to the all-star game, but to be able to be elected the year you're hosting it is a little storybook for them."

                                                               * * *

During a break in the Atlantic-Metro game, the Lightning and NHL honored hockey pioneer Willie O'Ree as its "Community Hero" of the game. The Lightning honor a hero each game and owner Jeffrey Vinik donates $50,000 for the charity of the recipient's choice. O'Ree was given $100,000 and presented a jersey by Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin before players from both sides lined up to shake his hand while the crowd honored him with a standing ovation.

* * *

* There were no penalties in the first two games and, frankly, no real infractions to call. That changed with 1:11 in the first half of the final when Gaudreau was sent off for tripping Boston's Brad Marchand. The irony to it was that Gaudreau was last year's Lady Byng Trophy winner for gentlemanly conduct after getting just two penalties all season.

* The crowd booed Marchand every time he touched the puck, even though he was on the Atlantic Division team that included the four Lightning players. Marchand is the Scourge of the Week in the NHL after earning a five-game suspension for elbowing New Jersey's Marcus Johansson in the head during a game last week.

* The championship game was delayed for a few minutes when the rigging and backdrop for Kid Rock's intermission set became stuck and would not climb to the rafters out of the way of the ice and spectator views. A stagehand climbed to the top of the structure, several feet over the ice, and finally got it moving up.

* Next year's contest in San Jose will mark the game's second visit to California in three years. The All-Stars spent last year in Los Angeles, where the unveiling of the NHL 100 was held to honor the game's 100 greatest players in conjunction with the game.

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