This NHL All-Star game ended much like last season did — with a bunch of victorious Blackhawks on the ice, and a player from Chicago skating off with the biggest prize.
Now for the twist: They weren't all on the same team.
Patrick Sharp won the MVP award — and the new car that goes along with it — as a member of local favorite Team Staal, but three Chicago teammates helped Team Lidstrom claim an 11-10 victory Sunday night in the first All-Star game in which the rosters were chosen by a draft of the captains.
That likely means there will be plenty of friendly ribbing in the Blackhawks' dressing room over bragging rights. Sharp can honk the horn to his new Honda Crosstour EX-L while Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews — all of Team Lidstrom — can point to the scoreboard.
"I think this will be the topic of conversation — definitely, I'll be sure to bring it up a few times," Sharp said. "All in all, I think it was a great weekend for the Blackhawks."
Especially since each of them showed up on the score sheet. Sharp and Toews had a goal and two assists apiece, while Kane and Keith both assisted on a goal by an ex-Blackhawk, Dustin Byfuglien.
Sharp had a hand in three of his team's first five goals, and scored his first career All-Star goal 78 seconds into the second period to give the Staals a short-lived 5-4 lead. That was enough to make him the first Chicago player to be selected All-Star MVP since Eric Daze in 2002. Bobby Hull also did it in 1970 and '71.
"For once, I think (Sharp) has proven that he's one of those guys, that he's one of those stars," Toews said. "He's slowly worked hard to become one of those household names, and it's not easy for a guy like that. But he's doing it, for sure. I'm sure you look at the list of former MVPs in this game, and you're going to see quite a lineup, so it's pretty cool for him to be added to that list."
There certainly was no shortage of MVP candidates in a game that had a combined 21 goals and turned out to be the kind of offensive showcase that was expected.
Team Lidstrom defenseman Shea Weber had four assists and was plus-6, while Loui Eriksson had two goals and two assists and Danny Briere had two goals. Briere, Toews and Martin St. Louis scored during a key 4-minute span of the third period for the Lidstroms, while the team's namesake — defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, a four-time Stanley Cup champion with Detroit — was a plus-7 in a game not known for defense.
Eric Staal — the captain of both the Carolina Hurricanes and the team that carried his name — scored twice in the third period, once on a breakaway to tie it at 7 and once from between the circles with 33.6 seconds left to pull Team Staal within one goal. But that was it, as Paul Stastny was wide with a backhand in the closing seconds.
Kris Letang had two goals while Claude Giroux had a goal and two assists, but the award and the car went to Sharp, who had a hand in three of Team Staal's first five goals.
He set up Stastny to make it 2-0 less than 3 minutes in, then assisted on Giroux's early goal to help Staal's team go up 4-0 less than 6 minutes in. Sharp would have had assists on three consecutive goals, but a scoring change took away his assist on Patrik Elias' goal and awarded it to Mike Green.
"They won the game. I got the trophy," Sharp said. "So I guess everybody's happy."
What will be remembered most about this All-Star game was the overhaul in the way the rosters were selected, with captains Staal and Lidstrom choosing up sides for the teams that bore their names during an 18-round draft. Sharp wound up splitting up with his Blackhawks teammates, all taken by Lidstrom while Eric Staal of Carolina snatched up Sharp in the eighth round.
Team Staal emerged as the obvious local favorite with a roster dominated by the captain's Hurricanes teammates and family members. But it was a native of Thunder Bay, Ontario — the hometown of Sharp and the Staals — who wound up winning the night's big prize.
"He's got a knack for finding the back of the net," Lidstrom said of Sharp. "He's got a quick release — we saw that on one or two of the goals he scored where he one-times the puck real quick. It's not a big windup. We know from playing against him so many times he's a very skilled player."
Those rowdy Caniacs filled the RBC Center hoping for fireworks from the three Carolina players in the game — Staal, rookie Jeff Skinner and goalie Cam Ward, grabbed by Staal with the No. 1 pick in the draft. With his teammates repeatedly trying to set him up, Skinner had four shots but no goals, though he did register an assist on one of Letang's goals.
Still, for the fans who had been counting down to an All-Star game here since well before it was announced last April, it was hard to view the showcase as anything but a success.
The Hurricanes honored three of their most celebrated players before the game, with former captains Rod Brind'Amour and Ron Francis taking part in a scene in which children acted out an old-fashioned way to choose up teams — throwing sticks in the middle and having a captain pick them out one by one. Another former Carolina player, defenseman Glen Wesley, sounded the siren that has become a pregame tradition in Raleigh.
And they delivered earsplitting cheers when one of the co-coaches for Team Lidstrom was introduced: Philadelphia's Peter Laviolette, who coached the Hurricanes to their only Stanley Cup in 2006.
"I think it was great for the players and the fans from out of town that came in to be able to see how hockey is down here in the South," Ward said. "And I think they're going to go home with a different perspective on Raleigh and the game itself, because it was just a party."