So, it was no surprise to see Sakic look comfortable among the Western Conference stars Sunday. He scored three goals to win the MVP award in the NHL All-Star Game.
Sakic scored in each period but it wasn't enough to lift the Western Conference, which lost 6-4 to the Eastern Conference. He entered with three career All-Star goals and 15 points in his previous 10 appearances.
It was the second straight year that the MVP came from the losing team. Atlanta's Dany Heatley took the honors in 2003 with a four-goal outburst in the East's 6-5 shootout loss.
"You always want to win," Sakic said. "There are some stakes
out there for the two teams.
"I think the most important thing was for the event to be a
success, and I thought it was a pretty good show."
Sakic didn't have Avalanche teammates Peter Forsberg, Paul Kariya or Teemu Selanne -- all perennial All-Stars -- with him, so he made do with NHL leading scorer Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks as his linemates.
That made for quite an interesting dynamic. Sakic and the Avalanche lead the Canucks by one point atop the Northwest Division and in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference.
"The good thing about the NHL is all the guys are good guys,"
Bertuzzi said. "It doesn't matter how many times you lock horns
during the year, you come to these things and everyone's great."
The trio clicked throughout as Naslund assisted on all three goals, and Bertuzzi helped set up the first two.
In last year's game, Naslund and Bertuzzi played on a line with
Forsberg. He scored only one goal with the Canucks duo, with
"I am going to go home and talk to Peter about that," Sakic
said. "We had a lot of opportunities, and the puck just went in."
With 6:23 left in the opening period, Naslund let go a shot that hit the skate of Eastern defenseman Brian Rafalski before Sakic knocked the puck in to get the West even at 1.
Naslund then found Sakic early in the second with a pass -- and the Avalanche captain did the rest.
Sakic came in alone on Montreal goalie Jose Theodore, moved the puck from his backhand to his forehand and put a shot in at 5:44 of the period to again tie it, this time 2-2.
He clinched the MVP award 7:22 into the third with a streak up the left side of the ice. Sakic carried the puck in tight on Florida's Roberto Luongo, but still had plenty of room to lift a backhander that got in the net over the goaltender's left shoulder for the game's final goal.
Once he scored twice, Sakic and his teammates were thinking
about a hat trick.
"They started trying to feed me and went to get the third
one," Sakic said. "Obviously, then it felt really good. I kind of
thought I had a chance."
Sakic, the Avalanche's career leader in goals, assists, and points, wasn't the only Colorado player on the Western Conference squad despite the absence of some of his very prominent teammates.
"He might have been nervous, but he didn't act nervous," Sakic
said of Tanguay. "For him, I think it was easier knowing some guys
and having some teammates with him."
Sakic has goals in three of the last four All-Star games and doesn't show signs of slowing down even in this his 16th NHL season. He has 22 goals and 35 assists while playing in 53 of Colorado's 54 games.
He is in a fifth-place tie on the NHL's scoring list with 57 points, but only second on the talent-laden Avalanche. Tanguay is on top with 61 points, six behind Naslund.