RALEIGH -- It must have felt a little like old times for Dustin Byfuglien.
The Thrashers defenseman scored a first-period goal in Sunday’s 2011 NHL All-Star Game. He was set up by former Chicago teammates Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith.
“It was a little weird,” Byfuglien said. “It was fun. We were all joking around. Any time you get to go back and play with your friends it goes a long way. The chemistry will always be there. Now it’s back to the grind and I get to run the [heck] out of them.”
Byfuglien was part of the winning team as Team Lidstrom defeated Team Staal 11-10 at the RBC Center. Dallas forward Loui Eriksson got what turned out to be the game-winner, when he scored an empty-net goal with 1:11 to play in the wide-open contest.
Byfuglien, making his first All-Star appearance, was reunited with four of his former Blackhawks teammates. Three played with him on Team Lidstrom, with Jonathan Toews joining Kane and Keith. Patrick Sharp, who was named the game’s MVP, had a goal and two assists in a losing effort for Team Staal.
The game got off to a rough start for Byfuglien and Team Lidstrom. They were down 4-0 after just 5:41. Byfuglien and Keith, paired defensively, were on the ice for two of the goals. The duo ended up a minus-3 for the game.
“My D partner definitely wasn’t very good,” Byfuglien joked with Keith sitting in the next stall. “We got in the minus boat right away.”
By contrast, team captain Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit) was a plus-7 and Shea Weber (Nashville) was a plus-6, not an easy task in an All-Star game.
Byfuglien joined an offensive rush with Kane midway through the first period for his goal. Kane slid a pass to him skating down the left side. He one-timed it past Team Staal goaltender Cam Ward at the 13:17 mark to cut the deficit to 4-2.
“I just jumped up into the play as usual and went backdoor,” said Byfuglien, who admitted the goal took some of the pressure off him. “I knew Kane would be able to see me back there. He made a nice little sauce pass and I put it in.”
Kane said he saw Byfuglien coming.
“I was going to cut to the net,” Kane said. “I saw him backdoor and tried to hit him. It was a nice shot by him.”
Byfuglien led all skaters with 22:18 in ice time on 14 shifts, and averaged 1:35.
“It definitely brings back some old memories but it wasn’t that long ago that I was playing with him,” Keith said.
Byfuglien scored 11 playoff goals to help Chicago win the Stanley Cup last season. He was traded to the Thrashers just weeks following the parade and earned an All-Star selection by leading the team with 16 goals.
The Blackhawks enjoyed their reunion. Sharp was awarded a car for winning the MVP award. He went so far as to thank Byfuglien in his post-game press conference for the “pass” -- or turnover -- that led to his second-period goal.
“I look forward to hopefully getting some rides in his new [car],” Keith said.
Byfuglien said Saturday’s skills competition was the highlight of his weekend.
“To be out there and listen to the guys have fun with each other before and after [their events], just being out there with all of these all-stars. ... hopefully I have a few more to come,” he said.
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