Projected high draft pick Kaapo Kakko leads Finland to win over Canada

Finland 3 Canada 1

KOSICE, Slovakia — Finland continued its recent domination of Canada in international hockey on Friday, winning 3-1 in the opening game for both teams at the world men’s championship.

The Finns beat the Canadians in the preliminary round at the same tournament last year and also eliminated Canada from gold-medal contention at the world juniors and world women’s championships this year.

Finland’s Kaapo Kakko, expected to be a high pick in the NHL draft next month in Vancouver, led the way with two goals on Friday.

Arttu Ilomaki scored the winner for Finland on the power play, depositing a rebound behind Canadian goalie Matt Murray early in the third period.

Canada’s Anthony Mantha missed a great chance with goalie Murray pulled late in regulation. He was all alone in front, but his backhand was stopped by Finland goalie Kevin Lankinen.

Kakko sealed it with an empty-netter seconds later.

“I thought we were on our heels in the first period. We got much better in the second, I really liked our second period, but then (Finland) got that bounce (that lead to a goal) at the beginning of the third and it put us back a little bit,” Canada head coach Alain Vigneault said.

“I think we could have responded a little better, but give (Finland) credit, they played a good game. There’s no doubt in my mind that this group can play better and that’s what we’re going to work on in the next day or two.”

Canada’s Jonathan Marchessault tied it at 1-1 on the power play at 8:03 of the first, taking a pass from Vegas Golden Knights teammate Mark Stone and beating Finland goalie Kevin Lankinen.

Kakko opened the scoring on a breakaway when his backhand beat Murray.

Marchessault was named player of the game for Canada in his Hockey Canada debut. Kakko was picked as Finland’s top player.

Finland outshot Canada 27-21.

“For our group, it’s not good enough,” Marchessault said. “I think we have to be better, but you have to give credit to the other team. They were more desperate than us and they were the better team today.

“We had a lot of chances and their goalie was very good. For us, there is no excuse and we need to find the back of the net.”

Many feel Kakko and U.S. forward Jack Hughes are battling to be the first pick in the NHL draft. Those two teams play on Monday.

Canada suffered a bad break earlier this week when Toronto Maple Leafs star John Tavares was ruled out of the tournament because of an oblique injury.

Canada returns to action on Sunday against Great Britain. It is Great Britain’s first appearance in the top division at the worlds since 1994.

Canada was held off the podium at last year’s event, losing to the United States in the bronze-medal game.

Prior to that, Canada was on the podium three years in a row, winning gold in 2015 and ‘16 and silver in ‘17.

Notes: Canada named veteran forward Kyle Turris as captain prior to the start of the tournament. Sean Couturier and Stone were named alternate captains. … Canada added Columbus Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Debois and Colorado Avalanche forward Tyson Jost to its roster on Friday after their NHL teams were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.

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