OTTAWA — Curtis Lazar doesn’t need to score goals to make an impact.
Lazar didn’t pick up a single point in Canada’s 5-2 win over Sweden Sunday night in World Junior exhibition play, but there was no denying his impact.
The 19-year-old Lazar – the oldest player on the roster by a matter of days – is on loan from the Ottawa Senators for the tournament. Having NHL experience means big things are expected from him both on and off the ice.
“After three months in the NHL I think he’s seen a lot and he’s seen many older guys in the NHL doing certain things,” said Canada’s coach Benoit Groulx. “You can tell maturity speaks in his case.”
Lazar joined the team late Friday, but Groulx says he has already made an impact.
“He’s loud on the bench,” said Groulx. “He likes to communicate with his teammates, likes to cheer for them, likes to tell them about positioning and stuff like that. It comes naturally for him obviously and a good hockey club needs that.”
Canada looked good Sunday night, getting goals from five different skaters.
Max Domi, Josh Morrissey, Anthony Duclair, Shea Theodore and Sam Reinhart scored for Canada while Eric Comrie made 17 saves.
Gustav Forsling and William Nylander had goals for Sweden, which got a 28-save performance from Samuel Ward.
This was Canada’s first game since finalizing its roster for the IIHF World Junior Championship on Saturday. The tournament gets underway Dec. 26 with Canada taking on Slovakia in Montreal.
The game also marked Connor McDavid’s first taste of action since he suffered a broken bone in his right hand on Nov. 11. It was Lazar’s first game since being loaned to the team.
The duo played together with Nick Ritchie and while they didn’t score, they did create a number of solid scoring chances.
Much was made of McDavid’s return to action. While the 17-year-old showed some signs of rust, Groulx noted that he improved as the game went on.
“He showed some good things out there, showed speed and he went by a couple of defencemen to take pucks to the net,” said Groulx.
“I think he had a great second half of the game and it’s good to see him back playing his style after such a long time being sidelined.”
McDavid said he felt pretty good and felt he and his linemates were able to create some good chances.
“It was nice,” said McDavid. “You never really want to be off and watching. It’s never a lot of fun. To be back in game action was a lot of fun.”
The trio of Domi, Duclair and Reinhart continue to display chemistry and were once again dangerous around the net as they combined for six points, including three goals.
“It’s a short tournament and it gets going pretty quick so the sooner you can find (chemistry) the better it is,” said Domi. “For our line personally, we’re really close off the ice and do a lot of things together and we talk about certain plays in practice and we just keep working on that stuff.”
Leading 3-1 to start the third, Canada extended its lead on Theodore’s goal at the six-minute mark of the final period. Theodore picked up his own rebound and beat Ward glove side.
Reinhart rounded out his line’s scoring as he picked up a power-play goal midway through the period, beating Ward short side under the arm.
Nylander, a Leafs prospect, made it 5-2 as he beat Comrie on a penalty shot late in the third period.
After a strong start to the game, Canada didn’t have a great second period, registering just three shots on goal.
Sweden made it a 2-1 game early in the second on Forsling’s power-play goal, but Canada regained its two goal-lead on a goal by Duclair, who is on loan from the New York Rangers.
Swedish coach Rikard Gronborg says getting the opportunity to play Canada is always a good test.
“We know we have a lot to learn and we definitely have to chip away on some stuff,” said Gronborg. “Definitely in the defensive zone we need to do better in front of our own net and that’s stuff we’ll focus on over the next couple days.”
Canada opened the scoring with a power-play goal two minutes into the first period as Domi banged home a rebound at the side of the net. Morrissey made it 2-0 midway through the period with a shot from the point.
Canada plays its final exhibition game Tuesday against Switzerland.