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Blue Jackets' Johansen named MVP of All-Star Game

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Ryan Johansen benefited from the home crowd support when he was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Nationwide Arena on Sunday.

Although the Columbus Blue Jackets center was on the losing side when Team Toews beat Team Foligno 17-12, Johansen won the voting by fans after he had two goals and two assists in his first All-Star Game appearance.

"This weekend was definitely a confidence booster," he said. "I was very happy to be a part of the All-Star Game, but it's important not to get too high or get too low and keep that even keel.

"It hasn't hit me yet for sure. This is something that I'll remember for a long, long time."

There were other worthy candidates for Team Toews, captained by Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews. Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek, a former Blue Jackets player, had three goals and three assists and John Tavares of the New York Islanders tied the All-Star Game record with four goals. Toews had five points (one goal, four assists).

But the All-Star Weekend belonged to Johansen.

He was the first pick in the 2015 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft presented by DraftKings on Friday. Johansen, 22, then wowed the home fans Saturday in the Honda NHL Breakaway Challenge when on his first attempt he donned an Ohio State football jersey in honor of the national championship won by the Buckeyes on Jan. 12.

On his next try he brought out 7-year-old Cole Vogt, the son of Blue Jackets trainer Mike Vogt, to score a goal and wrapped up his set with a "Flying V" formation with the help of his teammates.

"It meant a lot to me to see the fans and how much it meant to them," Johansen said. "We spent two hours [Sunday] morning signing autographs at the convention center. We were having a great time. Kids were laughing and smiling. It was a great thing to see the last few days."

Foligno, who scored and assisted on Johansen's first goal, was elated to participate in the memorable weekend.

"We're so proud of our city for showing that hockey is such a big deal here and the main focus," he said. "For us to be a part of it is really gratifying."

Foligno signed a six-year contract extension Dec. 31 and took his duties as an ambassador of Columbus for the weekend seriously.

"When you make that kind of commitment for that long of a time, you're proud of what you've accomplished and the team you play for," he said. "I wanted guys to see that. I wanted the guys to see the city. All the compliments that came from the guys, they loved it here. They all mentioned how nice Columbus is.

"That was the role I took to make sure I showed how great a city it is to play here and I think the fans took over and did the rest."

The sellout crowd wanted to cheer for the Blue Jackets involved. Johansen did not disappoint.

He made it 2-2 at 8:55 of the first period on his second shot as an All-Star with a wrist shot between the circles that got past Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo. Foligno had the primary assist.

"He's really crafty and nifty with the puck," Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane said of Johansen. "There's a couple of more goals he could have had tonight just with some of the moves he was making. He's a young, special player. He's going to be good for a long time."

The second goal for Johansen with 3:36 left in the first was a one-timer from the left side off a pass by Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin.

"I felt like I was playing road hockey with my buddies and I was pretending to be Ovechkin," Johansen said. "It's so surreal. You never expect this to happen when you're a kid."

Trailing 10-6 in the second period, Foligno tried to rally his team, scoring on forehand move against Chicago goalie Corey Crawford with 8:01 left. Linemates Johansen and Ovechkin assisted.

"I was playing on a line with Alexander Ovechkin," Foligno said. "It was pretty wild. He's a great guy … not only a great player, but a great guy."

Johansen got his final point of the game with a secondary assist when San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns scored with 1:20 left in the third period.

"It was great," Foligno said. "We were laughing a little bit how used we are to going fast and everything's full speed, guys are flying around hitting each other. There was none of that for sure, because that's the style I play."

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