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Brian Boyle's warm reception the highlight of All-Star Skills Competition

Things got emotional as the former Bolt made his return to AMALIE Arena as an All-Star

by Bryan Burns /

Tampa Bay Lightning All-Stars were shut out at Saturday night's NHL All-Star Skills Competition at AMALIE Arena.

But that mattered little to the Bolts or their fans.

The moment of the night came when former Lightning forward and fan favorite Brian Boyle came onto the ice for warmups, returning to AMALIE Arena after being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2017 trade deadline and signing as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils during the offseason.

Boyle, who was diagnosed with a form of Leukemia before the season but was able to return to the ice in just a couple months, tallying 11 goals and 17 points through 38 games and being named an All-Star on Thursday to replace injured teammate Taylor Hall, received a standing ovation from the AMALIE Arena crowd while a chant of 'Bri-an Boyle' broke out.

Boyle was visibly moved by the reception, a big grin breaking out on his face as he waved to the crowd.

In the locker room following the Skills Competition, a room he once sat in nearly every day for three seasons from 2014-2017, Boyle expressed his appreciation for the ovation.

"The feeling's mutual," Boyle said. "It was tough to go. I have great memories here, great friendships. This city grabbed a hold of us."

No doubt, Boyle grabbed a hold of the Tampa Bay area too during his three seasons here.

Video: Stamkos | Post Skills Competition

"We were so excited for him," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "I know it was probably an emotional return. I almost got a little emotional when they announced his name and the crowd went crazy and gave him a standing ovation. Great to see him and great that he's in our dressing room here. He's just such a great person. Really happy for him."

Boyle nearly gave the fans more to cheer about too as he led off the Accuracy Shooting event and posted a time of 11.626, which held up for most of the competition until Vancouver rookie Brock Boeser just edged him out in 11.136.

Brayden Point put up the best performance of the night for the Lightning, kicking the NHL All-Star Skills Competition off by going first in the Fastest Skater challenge, an event most players have shied away from since Connor McDavid entered the league.

Point flew around the ice in a time of 13.579.

McDavid went last and snuck across the finish line just ahead of Point by .125 of a second, registering 13.454. Point finished a close second.

After the competition, Stamkos was asked if he knew Point could skate that fast.

"I did, yeah," Stamkos said, smiling. "He's a great skater. We see him every day flying up and down the ice. I pretty much give it a win because Connor doesn't count out there, he's that fast. We knew it was going to be tight. We knew once he posted that time, it was going to be tough to beat…It was close."

Point said being in front of the supportive Lightning crowd gave him extra motivation.

Video: Point | Post Skills Competition

"They were going to cheer for me no matter what happened," Point said. "I could have wiped out and they would have still cheered."

McDavid won Fastest Skater for the second year in a row. He clocked in at 13.310 at last year's All-Star Weekend.

"I was surprised I was close," Point said. "He's obviously one of the fastest if not the fastest guy in the league. It was pretty cool just to give him a close race."

Stamkos logged a time of 21.923 in the Accuracy Challenge to finish in the middle of the pack. He also competed in the Hardest Shot challenge and posted 95.2 miles per hour on his first attempt and 95.9 on his second.

Alex Ovechkin had already wrapped up the win in the Hardest Shot with a first round speed of 98.8 but blistered a shot at 101.3 on his second attempt for good measure.

"Some of the stuff seems so simple but when you get the fact that all the guys are there watching, kind of giving chirps and the people in the stands and it's nationally televised, there's some nerves out there," Stamkos said.

Vegas' Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 14-consecutive pucks, Lightning right winger Nikita Kucherov the one to finally snap his streak, to win the Save Streak event. Andrei Vasilevskiy couldn't string together enough consecutive stops, finish with three saves for his longest streak.

Kucherov took part in the Passing Challenge but was tripped up trying to hit the target on the third mini net and needed 1:39.562 to finish. St. Louis' Alex Pietrangelo won that event in 46.610.

"I told him not to worry about it," Stamkos said. "We've all had nights like that. I had one in a shooting accuracy one where I took forever to finally get it. At the end of the day, no one's going to remember Kuch going first in that one or how long it took him when he scores a couple goals tomorrow."

Johnny Gaudreau finished first in the Puck Control Relay, the only event a Lightning player didn't take part in, with a time 24.650 seconds.

Despite not coming away with any competition wins, Stamkos said he and the rest of his Lightning teammates had a blast at the event.

"That was pretty special to get the reception that we got," he said. "…It was amazing, the turnout to all the events so far and to see all the fans, they get to see all the best players in the world and do some skills challenges, it was a great night."

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