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The NHL All-Star Game left Jon Cooper feeling like a proud father

Atlantic Division All-Stars head coach Jon Cooper behind the bench with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point (21), Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov (86) and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) during the second NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena in Tampa Sunday (01/28/18). DIRK SHADD   |   Times
Atlantic Division All-Stars head coach Jon Cooper behind the bench with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point (21), Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov (86) and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) during the second NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena in Tampa Sunday (01/28/18). DIRK SHADD | Times
Published Jan. 29, 2018

TAMPA –- The Lightning had four players in Sunday's NHL All-Star Game, five if you include injured D Victor Hedman, who worked the bench as an assistant equipment manager.

With one of the four being G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who coached the Atlantic Division, had the chance to start all four, and he did.

Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point were in the ice for the faceoff, which made Cooper feel like, what?

"Kind of like a proud dad a little bit," he 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."

Kucherov had a hat trick and Point scored a goal in the Atlantic's 7-4 win against the Metropolitan Division. The Atlantic then lost to the Pacific 5-2 in the championship game.

Point, who had a goal and an assist in the two games, was thrilled to be a part of the All-Star Weekend.

"Just to be here is awesome," Point said. "There's a lot of guys I knew who could have been here instead of me. I'm super happy, and to do it in Tampa was awesome."

Vasilevskiy played the opening periods of both games and allowed three goals in each. His 10 saves against the Metro were the most against any team by any of the goalies.

"(It was) the best experience of my life so far," Vasilevskiy said. "I want to say thank you to our fans and to other fans too for coming. It was an amazing experience."

HELPING WILLIE'S KIDS

Willie O'Ree, the first black player in the NHL, was honored Sunday as the Lightning's Community Hero for his work with the Hockey is For Everyone (HIFE) program.

O'Ree, who debuted with the Bruins on Jan. 18, 158 and played in 45 games during parts of two seasons, received a $100,000 check from the Lightning and the NHL for HIFE, which provides young people of all backgrounds with an opportunity to play hockey while teaching the game's core values of teamwork, respect, dedication and inclusion.

"It's really an honor," O'Ree said. "I know it will help the kids in these different programs. It's things that should happen."

Part of the money will go to starting a HIFE program in Tampa Bay.

"I hope I will be able to come and kick it off and be involved in some capacity," O'Ree said.

COURTING KARLSSON

When Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson was asked Saturday who he was looking forward to playing with the most in Sunday's NHL All-Star Game, the two-time Norris Trophy winner said: Kucherov and Stamkos.

Karlsson got his wish, teaming up with Kucherov and Stamkos for most of the two 3-on-3 games the Atlantic Division team played.

"I was really happy about that one," Karlsson said, smiling. "That's two pure goal scorers with great hockey sense. So for me, who doesn't shoot the puck as well anymore, nice to have those guys on each side."

Watching the trio make magic Sunday had Lightning fans dreaming of a more permanent reunion. Karlsson will be an unrestricted free agent after next season, but his comments about wanting to make what he's "worth" is driving speculation he could be a target at the Feb. 26 trade deadline. Stamkos joked he dropped hints about the Lightning to every player in the Eastern Conference dressing room. Karlsson did hang out with Stamkos at fellow Swede Hedman's house Friday night. Hedman is a good friend.

"I think everyone kind of knows what's going on around the league, and most of the guys in here know each other," Karlsson said. "Obviously there's a few comments tossed around everywhere, but at the end of the day, it's all in fun."

BOO BIRDS

Legendary pest Brad Marchand (Boston) got the loudest boos at Amalie Arena this weekend. But a close second went to Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who didn't see it coming. Crosby was even booed on the red carpet Sunday. "I was shocked," Crosby said. "I thought it was always a pretty good rink as far as not hearing it from the crowd. I don't know what I did between the last game and now, but they were hard on me tonight."

HEDS UP

Hedman getting named the assistant equipment manager for the Atlantic Division started off as a joke. But it was a neat way for the injured All-Star to still be able to participate in the game. Hedman didn't think he'd have many actual duties, though teammates put him to the test. Captain Steven Stamkos asked Hedman for tape during Saturday's skills competition, the Lightning defenseman telling his buddy to get it himself. "He needed some polishing," Stamkos joked of Hedman's job evaluation. "He was a little slow getting some tape and towels."

SLAPSHOTS

Canucks F Brock Boeser was named MVP. He joined Mario Lemieux (1985) as the only rookies to All-Star Game MVPs … Each player on the Pacific team earned nearly $90,000 for winning the 3-on-3 tournament … Kucherov led all scorers with three goals. Connor McDavid (Oilers) led everyone with four assists. Marchand and McDavid tied for the ASG-high with four points.

Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

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