COLUMBUS, Ohio — Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen spent the past few days showing off Columbus to his fellow NHL All-Stars.
On Sunday, Johansen did some showing off of his own by winning an online fan vote to be named the game’s MVP.
“It’s been really cool. It hasn’t hit me yet for sure,” he said. “This is something I’ll remember for a very long time.”
The fourth-year forward, and first-time All-Star won despite being on the short end of Team Foligno’s 17-12 loss to Team Toews. Johansen, a former Portland Winterhawk, led the team captained by Blue Jackets teammate Nick Foligno with four points (two goals and two assists) and won a new car to go with the honor.
He beat out two Team Toews players — New York Islanders forward John Tavares and Boston’s Patrice Bergeron. The three were announced as the MVP finalists early in the third period, when the vote on Twitter began in the first time fans have determined the winner.
Though the vote amounted to a popularity contest, Johansen’s fellow All-Stars called the honor deserving.
“Ryan played great,” said Bergeron, who had a goal and four assists. “There were a lot of guys who had great nights.”
That included Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek, who had a game-leading six points (three goals, three assists) to tie the All-Star record set by Mario Lemieux in 1988.
“Joey deserved it, the way he handled the weekend overall,” Voracek said, referring to Johansen. “Him and Nick Foligno, I’m sure, have been under a lot of the spotlight. They did a great job. It was well deserved.”
Tavares, meanwhile, matched an All-Star record in becoming the sixth player to score four goals.
Johansen has emerged as a fan favorite in Columbus after getting off to an uncertain start to the season. As a restricted free agent, he held out the first two-plus weeks of training camp before signing a three-year, $12 million contract in October.
The 2010 first-round draft pick has since delivered on that potential by leading the Blue Jackets with 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) in 45 games.
On Sunday, Johansen’s first goal tied the game at 2 at 11:05 of the first period, when he skated out of the left corner and snapped a shot in off the far post. Johansen scored his second goal 5 minutes later, when he one-timed in a pass from Alex Ovechkin.
Johansen then capped off his night by setting up goals by Foligno and Brent Burns.
“This weekend is definitely a confidence booster,” Johansen said. “But it’s important to not get too high, not get too low.”
Then there is the challenge he and the Blue Jackets face when they resume the season on Tuesday. That is when Johansen and Foligno will go from playing on the same line as Ovechkin to hosting him and the Washington Capitals.
At 20-22-3, the Blue Jackets are 13th in the Eastern Conference — 14 points out of a playoff spot. They also have numerous injuries to overcome, including the loss of Sergie Bobrovsky, who is out indefinitely after he hurt his groin last week.
“I think we have a good focus for when we get back, and knowing that we have a job to do,” Johansen said. “We’ve enjoyed this weekend a lot. But after tonight, we’ll refocus on playing Washington.”