Canada opens Olympic men's hockey with win over Norway
SOCHI, Russia — Team Canada didn’t take the ice for pre-game warm-ups until six minutes after Norway. Then the Canadians were late with their A-game, too.
Once they found a groove, though, they ran roughshod over Norway on the way to a 3-1 victory in their opening game of the Olympic hockey tournament Thursday at Bolshoy Ice Dome.
After a jagged start full of inconsistent play and mistakes, Canada dominated in the second period and eventually produced offence to show for it. Shea Weber and Jamie Benn scored during that onslaught and Drew Doughty added a goal in the third period.
Former NHL forward Patrick Thoresen scored Norway’s only goal by tipping Mathis Olimb’s shot, making Canada nervous for just a short time early in the third.
Goaltender Carey Price, who faced only two shots in the second period, finished with 19 saves on 20 shots to the win in his Olympic debut.
Roberto Luongo is set to start Friday’s game against Austria.
Coach Mike Babcock said after his team’s morning skate that “we’ll fix our problems tomorrow.” One of those problems Canada hopes it doesn’t repeat is the start it had against Norway.
From the drop of the puck, Canada was out of sorts. Pucks bounced over sticks and a couple of offside calls on an early power play created some frustration.
Even as the speed and talent advantage was evident on the first couple of shifts as Jonathan Toews blew by the Norwegian defence to get to a loose puck and Sidney Crosby had no trouble winning a puck battle, everything seemed to be a struggle. Canada’s players and Babcock knew Norway was a scrappy bunch that played well as a five-man unit, and that showed while the defending champions were going through some first-game growing pains.
Canada failed to get the puck into prime scoring areas, making the possibility of getting quality shots very difficult. Finishing the first period with nine shots to Norway’s eight, Canada was stymied by goaltender Lars Haugen (35 saves), who was playing his first game since Dec. 8 because of a lower-body injury.
Haugen was helpless once the game turned out of the first intermission. Suddenly it was like Canada found its ability to handle the puck, cycling it around in the offensive zone and hemming Norway in.
It was only a matter of time before Canada would break through, and then it happened seconds after Benn drew a delayed penalty. Duncan Keith found Weber at the point, and the big alternate captain fired a howitzer of a shot through traffic and into the net 6:20 into the period.
Canada took longer to get on the board against Norway this time than four years ago when it also put up a zero in the first period before Jarome Iginla scored 2:30 into the second. In Vancouver, the final score was 8-0.
This wasn’t that kind of domination, though it could have been based on the second period. In total Canada had 14 shots to Norway’s two, and it made the score 2-0 at the 15:19 mark when Benn fired a perfect shot past Haugen.
Norway didn’t pick up its first shot of the period until the 18:06 mark, and that was on a dump-in to get a line change. Price wasn’t seriously tested until early in the third.
With Keith in the penalty box for holding, Olimb picked Price’s pocket when the goalie mishandled the puck behind the net and found space in the faceoff circle. Olimb’s shot deflected off Thoresen and beat Price short side 22 seconds into the third, leading to cheers from many of the Russian fans who spent the night rooting against Canada.
It was Norway’s first goal against Canada at the Olympics since 1984, when it lost 8-1.
That cut the lead to 2-1 and put a scare into Canada. It was short-lived as Doughty weaved through the Norwegian defence and lifted a back-handed shot over Haugen’s right shoulder at the 1:47 mark.
Canada got a power play later in the third but couldn’t muster anymore offence. In beating Norway by just two goals, it finished behind the United States (six), Finland (four) and Russia (three) and tied with Sweden in goal differential through one game.
Goal differential is the first tiebreaker for determining seeding after group play.
NOTES — Forward Matt Duchene, defenceman P.K. Subban and goaltender Mike Smith were scratched for Canada. Babcock said Duchene and Subban would play in the second game against Austria. ... Norway’s Mats Trygg left the ice in pain after blocking a shot in the third period. ... The attendance was announced as 10,261. ... Canada-Norway was the third game of the day at Bolshoy Ice Dome, following Finland’s victory over Austria and Russia’s over Slovenia.