The Canadian hockey team started its 2014 Winter Olympics on the right note with a 3-1 win over Norway in each team's first game in Sochi.
Shea Weber, Jamie Benn and Drew Doughty came through with the goals for Canada, while Patrice Bergeron added two assists and was the only person plus-two on the day.
Carey Price got the start in net for the defending Olympic champs and finished with 18 saves, allowing just a single goal on a deflection by Norway's Patrick Thoresen.
While the squad did not score as many goals as the United States (seven) or Finland (eight) in its first game, Canada should be satisfied with a dominant effort that featured a 38-20 shot advantage for the eventual winners.
This matchup started with very little action, as the first period featured zero goals and few scoring chances from either side. Canada successfully killed a couple of penalties, but there wasn't a lot of activity on the offensive end.
However, things changed quickly for the favorites as they came prepared to play in the second period.
Shea Weber started off the scoring with a powerful shot described well by Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Duncan Keith and Patrice Bergeron earned assists on the opening goal with some great movement of the puck before Weber fired the shot at the net. As the Score points out, this was a relief for fans watching in Sochi and at home:
It took about nine minutes worth of game time for Canada to double the lead, but there were plenty of chances throughout. The squad finally got the puck into the back of the net thanks to a great finish by Jamie Benn.
Dan Rosen of NHL.com also discusses the pass that set it up:
The period ended 2-0 in favor of Canada, but Bruce Arthur of the National Post notes that it was much more one-sided than the score indicated:
However, the door was still left open for a comeback as Duncan Keith was called for holding shortly before the second intermission. Norway took advantage of this with a power-play goal by Patrick Thoresen 22 seconds into the third period.
Unfortunately for the Norwegians, this momentum was quickly killed as Canada built the lead back up to two goals after one minute and 25 seconds. This time, it was Drew Doughty doing it all himself:
Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Marleau earned assists on the goal, though the credit goes more to the scorer himself.
The sides were each called for two more penalties in the third period, but no one was able to get on the scoreboard before time ran out.
Canada enters the week as one of the favorites to take home gold, something that is tough to argue against based on all the NHL talent it boasts on the roster. This was a good first step, but the team must continue to play well against Austria on Friday and then Finland on Sunday.
If the Canadians are still alive, they will likely have to compete with Russia, the United States and Sweden for a title. Assistant coach Ken Hitchcock discussed the expectations with Rosen:
There is pressure in the NHL, pressure in the NHL playoffs, but there is pressure and stress in the Olympics because you're carrying the weight of a nation on you. We have great chemistry as a staff. It's a bunch of confident guys that are very experienced and know what it takes to win, especially at the Olympic level. That familiar ground is definitely going to help us in Sochi.
So far the team has not had any problems, but there are certainly better teams ahead in the tournament.
Norway will move on to face Finland on Friday and Austria on Sunday while hoping to advance to the knockout stage. While there was some solid play from the entire team against Canada, especially from goalie Lars Haugen, it will be an uphill battle going forward.
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