|Date||February 2 2003|
|Arena||Office Depot Center|
|MVP||Dany Heatley (Atlanta)|
The 53rd National Hockey League All-Star Game was held during the 2002–03 NHL season, and took place at the Office Depot Center in Sunrise, Florida, the home of the Florida Panthers, on February 2, 2003. It was the first All-Star Game since the 1997 All-Star Game to use the Eastern Conference - Western Conference format.
The All-Star festivities began on February 1 with the YoungStars Game, pitting the best rookies on league rosters against each other. Months ago, it was decided that the assistant coaches of the team with the best points percentages in their respective conferences through the games of Wednesday, January 8, were selected as coaches for the Eastern Conference and Western Conference YoungStars, respectively. The YoungStars players were selected by the NHL's Hockey Operations Department, in consultation with League General Managers.
The game's format changed from the previous season as it will be played using five skaters and one goaltender per team. The duration of the game will consist of three 10-minute periods, running time with 15-second stops after goals with a four-minute break between periods. If the score is tied after three periods, a sudden-death shootout will determine the winner.
Washington Capitals' Brian Sutherby won the Most Valuable Player for the Eastern Conference YoungStars by scoring two goals and an assist as the East cruised to an easy 8–3 victory. Hometown favourite Stephen Weiss also scored a goal and an assist for the East to thrill the Panthers fans in attendance.
Super Skills Competition
A traditional event followed the YoungStars game, with the NHL Skills Competition. The Western Conference won the competition 15–9, made memorable by hard-shooting defenseman Al MacInnis of the St. Louis Blues winning his seventh Hardest Shot event, and Colorado Avalanche's Patrick Roy allowed only a single goal through both of the Goaltending Competitions.
Individual Event winners
- Puck Control Relay - Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning)
- Fastest Skater - Marian Gaborik (Minnesota Wild) - 13.713 seconds
- Accuracy Shooting - Jeremy Roenick (Philadelphia Flyers) - 4 hits, 6 shots
- Hardest Shot - Al MacInnis (St. Louis Blues) 98.9 mph
- Goaltenders Competition - Patrick Roy (Colorado Avalanche) - 1 GA, 9 shots
On Sunday, February 2, the actual All-Star Game began. The Eastern Conference was forced to name five injury replacements to their roster, as Ed Belfour, Brian Leetch, Mario Lemieux, Saku Koivu, and Mats Sundin were all out with injury. Despite the high-profile names missing from their roster, Atlanta Thrashers' sniper Dany Heatley opened the scoring for the Eastern Conference by scoring a fine goal past Colorado Avalanche's Patrick Roy just five and a half minutes into the first period.
Colorado Avalanche's Peter Forsberg and Dallas Stars' Mike Modano scored the next two goals to give the Western Conference a 2–1 lead. However, Heatley would score his second consecutive goal on Roy, by tapping in a rebound that was shot by Washington Capitals' Jaromir Jagr to tie the score at 2–2, a bit more than half-way through the first period. Five minutes later, Minnesota Wild's Marian Gaborik scored a goal that was similar to Heatley's second by banging in Los Angeles Kings' Mathieu Schneider's rebound shot past Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikolai Khabibulin to restore the Western lead at 3–2, which remained at the end of the first period. Goaltenders Roy and Khabibulin would then be replaced by Chicago Blackhawks' Jocelyn Thibault and New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur for the West and the East, respectively.
The change of goaltenders made little difference for Heatley, as he finished his hat trick with a tough wrist shot past Thibault to tie the game at 3–3. For the third consecutive time, however the West replied when Vancouver Canucks' Ed Jovanovski caught a lucky deflection off the skate of Washington Capitals' Sergei Gonchar. But for the fourth consecutive time in the game , Heatley scored an electrifying fourth goal of the game by converting a pass from hometown hero Florida Panthers' Olli Jokinen and shooting it over Thibault's glove. Heatley's four goals in an All-Star game tied the previous records of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Vincent Damphousse and Mike Gartner and became the first player in All-Star history to score four-consecutive goals.
No more goals were scored in the second period, and Ottawa Senators' Patrick Lalime came in for the Eastern Conference, while Dallas Stars' Marty Turco came in for the Western Conference. St. Louis Blues' Al MacInnis, however, had no intention of letting the goaltenders have the spotlight as he unleashed his patented slapshot past Lalime's glove to give the West a 5–4 lead, a minute and a half into the third period.
Olli Jokinen, however, would tie the game up by taking a pass from Jaromir Jagr and skating in on a partial breakaway and putting a hard wrist shot past Turco to tie the game at 5–5. With ten minutes left in regulation, neither team were able to score on the two goaltenders, especially on Lalime who was spectacular and drew praise in a game that was usually reserved for offensive skills. The third period would end in a 5–5 tie and the winner of the 53rd NHL All-Star Game would have to be decided in overtime for the first time since 1988.
Patrick Lalime and Marty Turco remained in goal for the overtime, and both were still solid to preserve a scoreless extra period and for the first time in history an NHL All-Star Game would be settled in a shootout, which was a tantalizing sight for NHL fans who did not see shootouts in league competition. Patrick Lalime was remarkable to that point in the game, but the shootout went against him from the start as Vancouver Canucks' Markus Naslund, Dallas Stars' Bill Guerin, and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim's Paul Kariya would score for the Western Conference. On the other side, the shootout went well for Marty Turco as he only let in one goal in the shootout, which was scored by Dany Heatley. Heatley's shootout goal, however, did not count towards his regulation total of four leaving him tied for the record. The Western Conference skated out of one of the most thrilling All-Star Games in history with a 6–5 shootout victory. Heatley, with a total of five points, was named All-Star MVP.
- Note 1: Brian Leetch was voted as a starter, but was unable to play due to injury. Tom Poti was selected as his replacement, while Scott Stevens was named as his replacement in the starting lineup.
- Note 2: Sandis Ozolinsh was chosen as a member of the Florida Panthers but was traded to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim the two nights before the game. The public address announcement was said as followed: "From your Florida Panthers but now playing for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, #8 Sandis Ozolinsh!!"
- Note 3: Mario Lemieux was voted as a starter, but was unable to play due to injury. Vincent Lecavalier was selected as his replacement, while Jeremy Roenick was named as his replacement in the starting lineup.
- Note 4: Mats Sundin was selected, but was unable to play due to injury. Olli Jokinen was named as his replacement.
- Note 5: Ed Belfour was selected, but was unable to play due to injury. Patrick Lalime was named as his replacement.
- Note 6: Saku Koivu was selected, but was unable to play due to injury. Miroslav Satan was named as his replacement.