Watch the video above: Canada and Russia won their respective first games at the Bolshoi Ice Dome. Some fans are hoping that could lead to a face-off between the longtime rivals. Eric Sorensen reports.
For coverage of Game 2 of the tournament, where the Canadian men’s hockey team meets Austria, click here.
Despite only a handful of practices and a slow start, Team Canada found its stride, beating Norway 3-1 in its first game of the men’s hockey tournament at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The game was scoreless after the first period and fairly evenly matched with Canada just barely out-shooting Norway 9-8.
Shea Weber scored six minutes into the second period, a bullet from the blue line, assisted by Duncan Keith and Patrice Bergeron. Jamie Benn scored the game-winner at 15:19, giving Canada a 2-0 lead.
VIDEO: Team Canada comment on the slow start and how they found their game in the second to pull out the win vs. Norway
After a quiet first period, Canada picked it up in the second, out-shooting Norway 14-2 in the period.
Just 22 seconds into the third period, Norway’s Patrick Thoresen scored, getting Norway within one. Drew Doughty answered back with a goal of his own just over a minute later, with Getzlaf and Patrick Marleau assisting.
By the final horn, Canada out shot Norway 38-20.
Canada is in action again on Friday, playing Austria at 12pm ET in Sochi’s Bolshoy Ice Dome.
Canada’s starting lineup had Chris Kunitz and Jeff Carter joining Team Canada captain Sidney Crosby on the top line.
Chicago Blackhawks teammates Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews started on the second line with Rick Nash. Marleau, Getzlaf and Corey Perry were the third line. Benn, John Tavares, Bergeron and Tampa Bay forward Martin St. Louis also dressed.
On defence, Keith teamed up with Weber, Marc-Edouard Vlasic with Doughty, Jay Bouwmeester with Alex Pietrangelo and Dan Hamuis dressed as the 7th defenceman.
Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban and Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene were healthy scratches and didn’t play on Thursday. Babcock said both players will be in the lineup on Friday against Austria.
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo will start in net against Austria.
Defending gold medallists, Team Canada has a roster filled with Stanley Cup winners, two of the NHL’s top three scorers (Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf), and more star centres than you can shake a stick at.
New York Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello is the lone NHLer on Norway’s Olympic roster.
After a last-minute roster change, with St. Louis replacing injured Lightning centre Steven Stamkos, and a tough decision on who would start the first game in net (Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey Price got the tap), Team Canada found its stride in the second period.
Watch the video below: Team Canada confident in Carey Price
The team, made entirely of NHLers, had to adjust to the larger Olympic ice surface.
Since NHL players have been allowed to play in the Winter Olympics, Canada’s record is mixed: two gold medals on North American soil (Salt Lake City in 2002* and Vancouver in 2010). Overseas, however, in Nagano and Turin, Team Canada didn’t medal, finishing 4th in 1998 and 7th in 2006.
*Note: Although the 2002 Olympics were held in North America, the gold medal game was held on a larger ice surface to meet International Ice Hockey Federation standards.
In Sochi, hockey takes place on a rink about three metres longer and four metres wider than a standard NHL ice surface. The neutral zone is longer and there is more space behind the net.
The Canadians landed in Sochi on Monday, and despite having just a handful of practices and condensed time frame, they say they are coming together.
Watch the video below: Crosby, Dan Hamhuis and Patrick Sharp on how the team is preparing for it’s tournament opener
Crosby said they also need to focus on the team they’re playing, not looking too far forward toward a potential gold medal match-up.
READ MORE: Should Team Canada fear the Big Red Machine?
“It’s too short of an event to think about other teams or not respect the team you’re playing,” said Crosby. “Every team wants to beat Canada especially, and I think we understand that.”
In other hockey news
Russia beat Slovenia 5-2 on Thursday, with Alex Ovechkin nabbing a goal, an assist and the first star of the game. Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin led Russia with a goal and two assists. The Sochi Games marked Slovenia’s debut in men’s hockey, currently ranked 18th in the world by the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Also on Thursday, Finland beat Austria 8-4 and the USA hammered Slovakia 7-1.
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