Atlantic wins NHL all-star showcase; Horvat, Pettersson skate together one last time
Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson did indeed get a final ride together.
They were hoping for one more.
Traded to the New York Islanders in a blockbuster deal at the start of the week, Horvat finished a hectic seven-day stretch alongside his former Vancouver Canucks teammate at the NHL's 3-on-3 all-star tournament Saturday.
But the Pacific Division's elimination in the semifinals by their counterparts from the Central meant they didn't get a second opportunity.
"A little sad to know that was gonna be the last time we're gonna skate together," Horvat, Vancouver's now ex-captain, said after setting up Pettersson in the Pacific's 6-4 loss. "I'm glad we got to connect on a goal today and get one last shot. I'm going to miss him.
"He's a great, great person, great player. He's going to do a lot of great things."
Detroit Red Wings centre Dylan Larkin had a hat trick for the Atlantic in a 7-5 victory over the Central in the final of the league's showcase event.
Florida Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk, who was named tournament MVP, scored once and set up another in the title game on the heels of a three-goal, two-assist performance in a 10-6 semifinal victory over the Metropolitan.
"It's been an honour to play in front of (Panthers fans) this whole year," Tkachuk said of the home support following his off-season trade from the Calgary Flames. "It's great that the other players in the league can see what a great place this is.
"I'm as happy as can be here."
Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner registered three assists in the final.
"Great to be a part of it," he said. "Fun, fun game out there ΓÇª a couple of guys giving it their all."
The Metropolitan's defeat to the Atlantic meant Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin -- his opposite with the Washington Capitals -- had what could be their final all-star appearance together cut short.
"You try to balance it," Crosby said when asked if he soaked up the atmosphere more at his fifth all-star game, and fourth with Ovechkin. "You try to go out there have fun and stay in the moment. Hopefully, it's not our last one."
"You never know if you're gonna be in all-star game one more time," added Ovechkin, who entered the league with Crosby in 2005 and combined for three goals Saturday.
"I was trying to get more fun ... and try to get memories."
Crosby was surprised to get a pass on a few occasions from his forever rival, and the man chasing Wayne Gretzky's all-time goal record.
"I didn't expect to get (the puck) back a couple of those times," Crosby said with a laugh. "I was thinking I just did my job, gave it to him. I thought he was just gonna finish it, but he was kind enough to send me a couple of back. We had some nice goals.
"Definitely some moments there to remember on a personal level."
Those moments weren't lost on their opponents.
"Looking across at them playing together, you don't see that very much," Montreal Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki said. "It was really cool."
Pettersson, meanwhile, said he and Horvat discussed their last hurrah.
"We talked about it: 'Whatever happens, just make sure we score one together,"' said the Swede.
"And, yeah, we did."
Pacific Division teammate and Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid said it was strange to see the former and current Canucks skating together.
"We wanted to try to make it special for them," said the NHL scoring leader. "It's not every day you get traded and you spend a couple extra days together and play together."
Vegas Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy, who ran the Pacific bench, started Horvat and Pettersson for the opening faceoff before Vancouver's former face of the franchise fully flipped conferences.
"We thought that'd be kind of cool," he said. "Give Bo the start, waving goodbye to the West and on to the East."
Horvat said he cherished lining up next to Pettersson in what the latter described as their "last ride" in the lead-up.
"It was fun to play with him one last time -- for now," Horvat said. "We'll see what happens in the future. "It was kind of bittersweet out there."
The NHL announced Toronto will host next year's all-star game -- the first time back in the hockey hotbed since 2000.
"I'm sure they'll do a great job," Crosby said. "They'll be thrilled to have it and there'll be a lot of support."
It'll also be quite the temperature change outside after Las Vegas hosted in 2022 and South Florida stepped forward this season.
"We're pretty busy all weekend," McDavid said. "I didn't get to spend much time on the beach, but it's my hometown which would be special."
This year's event included a surf and golf feel during the skills competition.
So what might Toronto's spin be in 12 months time?
"Maybe a polar plunge into Lake Ontario," Marner said. "We're don't have to worry about gators there."
HAYES FULFILS BROTHER'S DREAM
Philadelphia Flyers forward Kevin Hayes was at his first all-star event, something his late brother and former NHLer Jimmy Hayes playfully predicted.
"It was more of a joke, honestly," said Kevin Hayes, who laced up his skates with the Metropolitan side. "I never really thought that something like this would happen. He would always say, 'This is a year it's gonna happen."'
Jimmy Hayes died suddenly at age 31 in August 2021.
"I think he was just saying it to be a good guy," Kevin Hayes said of his brother's all-star chatter.
"But it's cool that it happened and that I got to experience it."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2023.