Kevin Poulin, Canada Shut Out South Korea in 2018 Winter Olympics Hockey

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2018

Goalie Matt Dalton (1), of South Korea, deflects the puck as Derek Roy (9), of Canada, tries to shoot during the third period of the preliminary round of the men's hockey game at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Canada, the two-time defending gold medalists in men's hockey, ended the preliminary round at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with a 4-0 victory over the host nation in a game that aired live Sunday in the United States.  

The victors received goals from Christian Thomas, Eric O'Dell, Maxim Lapierre and Gilbert Brule, as well as a strong performance from former New York Islanders goaltender Kevin Poulin, and wasted little time bouncing back from a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic.

Although the Czech Republic already clinched the top spot in Group A with its win against Switzerland, Canada finished in the second spot with two victories. The loss marked the third straight in the preliminary round for South Korea following defeats to Switzerland (8-0) and the Czech Republic (2-1).

While the Canadian attack broke through with four goals, Poulin turned away every South Korean chance in front of a raucous and partisan crowd. He wasn't tested nearly as much as his counterpart, Matt Dalton, but he kept his side in the lead for stretches during the second period when it was clinging to a one-goal advantage and lost some of its initial control.

The talent disparity was clear across the ice, though, as Canada was faster to loose pucks, more physical on the boards and able to dictate play in the neutral zone.

As a result, it consistently peppered Dalton (49-19 advantage in shots on goal, per NBC Olympics) and continued creating opportunities in the attacking zone with a commanding 47-18 disparity in faceoffs won, per NBC Olympics.

It was a credit to Dalton that the final score was as close as it was, especially after Canada tallied 18 of the 23 shots on goal in the first period alone even though the host nation had two power plays in the opening 20 minutes.

It was only a matter of time before one of those shots got through, and Thomas broke the scoreless tie with a rocket over the left shoulder of Dalton after receiving a pass in stride as he streaked toward the goal.

As disastrous as the first period was for South Korea, it finally built some extended momentum in the second following a high sticking penalty that sent Mason Rudolph to the penalty box for four minutes.

Josh Clipperton of the Canadian Press noted Hyonho Oh paid the price for his team's golden opportunity:

Poulin shone during the power play with multiple head-turning saves, and South Korea's brief momentum washed away in an instant when a rebound bounced off the back boards and directly on to O'Dell's waiting stick before he buried the second goal of the contest.

The outcome was never truly in doubt from there even when South Korea tested Poulin a few more times down the stretch.

Lapierre extended the lead when he carried the puck nearly the length of the ice on the right side and beat Dalton with a quick flick of his wrist, and Brule put the exclamation mark on the win with a power-play goal in the final two minutes.

While Canada is playing without the current NHL players who helped lead it to gold in the last two Winter Olympics, it looked the part of a medal threat Sunday with the majority of the offense and timely saves from Poulin.

It also has goaltender Ben Scrivens to turn to in the elimination rounds and will provide a stiff test to any of the remaining nations in the tournament.

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