PARIS — Mitch Marner’s hockey sense has won him a few admirers early in his hockey career. You can add Canada head coach Jon Cooper to that list.
Marner scored twice on Tuesday and Canada’s power play continued to roll as it finished its preliminary round at the world hockey championship with a 5-2 win over Finland.
The Canadians scored early and often, with Marner notching his third and fourth goals of the tournament in an opening period where Canada outshot the Finns 15-6.
“He oozes with confidence and hockey sense and skill,” Cooper of the 20-year-old, who was named Canada’s player of the game. “You give him the puck in the open ice and you sit there and think he’s got one of three options, then he invents option four, five and six. It’s impressive to watch him play.”
Colton Parayko, Brayden Point and Matt Duchene also scored for Canada.
Marner opened the scoring 2:46 into the game off an impressive toe-drag after a feed from Point. Jani Lajunen replied for the Finns to even the score at 1-1 just 22 seconds later.
The Canadian power play then went to work, with Marner setting up Parayko for his third goal of the tournament before scoring his second of the game to give Canada a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes.
Canada finished the preliminary round with 12 power-play goals on 25 attempts, second in efficiency behind Russia (13-for-24).
The pace slowed in the middle frame as the teams traded goals. Point fired a rebound off the end boards past Finnish goalie Harri Sateri to extend Canada’s lead to 4-1 before Atte Ohtamaa beat Calvin Pickard with a slap shot from top of the left circle to give the largely pro-Finland crowd of 10,202 fan at AccorHotels Arena something to cheer about with 3:09 to play in the second.
Duchene extended the lead to 5-2 with his first goal of the tournament on a breakaway 34 seconds into the third. Canada ran into trouble midway through the period, taking three straight penalties. But the Finns were unable to score, including on a 58-second 5-on-3 with defencemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Calvin de Haan both in the box.
De Haan said he wasn’t nervous after he took the slashing penalty that put his team two men down. “We know what our penalty killers can do. Guys get in lanes, block pucks and the less work that Cal (Pickard) has to do in net, the better. We played pretty solid, I think.”
“When you go down 5-on-3 for a prolonged period of time when the game’s in the balance, to kill it off was just a huge energy boost for us,” added Cooper. “Moving forward, we’re going to need our PK to be as good, if not better, to keep advancing.”
Final shots on goal were 28-20 in favour of Canada.
With the win, Canada finishes the preliminary round with a tournament-best 19 points and a 6-0-0-1 record. The Canadians will play co-host Germany in the quarter-finals in Cologne on Thursday. Germany claimed the last playoff spot in the group with a 4-3 shootout win over Latvia.
“I know that they know how to come back from a deficit in the last minute,” said Cooper when asked what the Canadian coaching staff knew about its next opponent. “It’s going be a tough test for us. The environment should be pretty electric.”
“It will be a tough game in their building, with the home crowd and everything,” added forward Sean Couturier. “Whatever’s up in front of us, we’ll be up to the challenge.”
The other quarter-finals see the United States face Finland, Russia take on the Czech Republic and Switzerland play Sweden.