Team Canada Passes First World Junior Test, Beats Germany 9-3
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Team Canada exploded offensively in its World Junior Championship opener in Russia. The gold medal favorites clobbered Germany 9-3 at Ufa Arena to take the first three points available in Group B.
Captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft, was spectacular throughout, producing a goal and four assists to earn player of the game honors. Nugent-Hopkins centered Canada's lethal top line, which also features 2011 first-rounders Jonathan Huberdeau and Mark Scheifele.
Huberdeau, who exhibited superb chemistry with Nugent-Hopkins, had a three-point night, while Scheifele scored two goals. The trio was a constant nightmare for Germany and should continue to dominate throughout the tournament.
Eight different players scored goals for Canada, with five players registering multi-point nights.
The scoring started early for Canada, with Xavier Ouellet scoring a power-play goal on a deflected pass intended for Ty Rattie three minutes into the first period. Seven minutes later, Nugent-Hopkins put the puck home following a slicing pass from Jonathan Huberdeau.
Tobias Rieder pulled one back for Germany on the power play to make it 2-1 just before the intermission, giving Canadian goaltender Malcolm Subban no chance on a deadly one-timer.
Canada came out flying in the second frame with four unanswered goals before letting off the gas with a 6-1 lead. Defensive meltdowns allowed Leonhard Pfoderl and Nickolas Latta to score within two minutes of each other.
Canadian fans will hope that spots of sloppy play resulted purely from the big lead rather than major defensive problems. A few more breakdowns in the third period required spectacular saves from Subban to maintain the big lead.
Despite the series of momentary lapses, Canada slammed the door decisively in the third with goals from Jonathan Drouin, who raised his 2013 draft stock with an exceptional performance, and Tyler Wotherspoon.
Head coach Steve Spott surprised many when he opted to start Malcolm Subban in net over Jordan Binnington, who was far more productive in pre-tournament games. However, Spott's decision seemingly paid off, as Subban made a number of incredible saves.
He was quick in the crease and showed plenty of poise. The Boston Bruins' 2012 first-round pick made 28 saves and was hardly at fault on the three German goals. His performance should earn him another start against Slovakia on Friday.
Though its first game of the 2013 World Junior Championship may have been a glorified tune-up against a German team that would be ecstatic simply to avoid relegation, Canada should be pleased with its scorching-hot offensive start.
Nugent-Hopkins, Huberdeau, Scheifele and Ryan Strome have begun their assault on the tournament's scoring charts and they aren't likely to let up any time soon.
Canada will take on a slightly more challenging Slovakian team on December 27 before facing medal contenders Russia and USA in its final two group games.
Tournament host Russia will begin its gold medal pursuit against Slovakia today, while the United States will open its campaign against the Germans tomorrow.
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