After missing almost an entire season of hockey, Alex Galchenyuk is doing his best to make up for lost time.
The 18-year-old forward had a dominating performance in his first World Junior Championship game, scoring a goal and adding two assists as the United States defeated Germany 8-0 on Thursday in its tournament opener.
The United States got goals from eight players, but the top line of Sean Kuraly centering Galchenyuk and Riley Barber combined for three goals and five assists. However, it was Galchenyuk, the third pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, who was recognized as the game's best player.
His one-touch pass to Barber off a Mike Reilly stretch pass set up Kuraly's goal 19 seconds into the game. Later in the period, he scored the game's prettiest goal. Taking the puck off the wall along the left side in the Germany zone, he curled back to the blue line and found an unobstructed path to the slot. His rocket of a wrist shot beat Germany goalie Marvin Cupper over his glove at 9:54 to make it 3-0.
On Galchenyuk's first shift of the second, his dogged forechecking led to a turnover behind the German net. He pounced on the loose puck and found Barber for a goal 15 seconds into the period to make it 4-0.
"Alex is coming into his own," U.S. coach Phil Housley told NHL.com. "I thought tonight was good to see him score. He was very composed. We're going to need more production form his line. It was good for him and Kuraly and Barber to contribute."
The contribution is just one of many Galchenyuk has made this season after his lost 2011-12. He injured his knee in September 2011 and skated in two regular-season games and six playoff games for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. Though he barely played, the Canadiens still took him with the third selection of the 2012 NHL Draft, and he's shown this season he was worthy of that pick -- when he left for the WJC, he was tied for the OHL lead with 27 goals in 33 games.
"I'm happy how I played today, and I thought our team played good," Galchenyuk told NHL.com. "[Our line] did the small things and we contributed offensively and defensively. We have to do the same thing [Friday]."
Friday's game against Russia (9 a.m. ET, NHLN-US) will be a special one for Galchenyuk. The forward was born in Milwaukee, but he's of Belarusian decent and lived all throughout North America and Europe during his father's hockey career, including a stop in Moscow.
However, Galchenyuk considers himself American and doesn't see playing in Ufa -- about 830 miles east of Moscow -- as a "home" game.
"It's always game by game," he said. "You look at each team. We were focused on Germany, [Friday] we'll be focused on Russia."
Watch WJC on NHL Network-US
- PRELIMINARY ROUND:
|Date||Time (ET)||Teams||Replay (ET)|
|* Thu Dec. 27||9:00 AM||USA vs. GER||8:00 PM|
|Fri Dec. 28||4:30 AM||SVK vs. CAN||5:30 PM|
|* Fri Dec. 28||9:00 AM||USA vs. RUS||8:00 PM|
|Sat Dec. 29||9:00 AM||RUS vs. GER||5:30 PM|
|* Sun Dec. 30||4:30 AM||USA vs. CAN||8:00 PM|
|Sun Dec. 30||9:00 AM||GER vs. SVK||5:30 PM|
|* Mon Dec. 31||5:00 AM||USA vs. SVK||8:00 PM|
|Mon Dec. 31||9:00 AM||CAN vs. RUS||5:30 PM|
(Medal Round Replays To Be Announced)
|Wed Jan. 2||4:00 AM||TBD||5:30 PM|
|Wed Jan. 2||8:00 AM||TBD||8:00 PM|
|Thurs Jan. 3||4:00 AM||TBD||5:30 PM|
|Thurs Jan. 3||8:00 AM||TBD||8:00 PM|
|Sat Jan. 5||4:00 AM||TBD||5:30 PM|
|Sat Jan 5||8:00 AM||TBD||8:00 PM|
The United States outshot Germany 46-26 and went 49-24 on faceoffs. Three U.S. defensemen also had goals, and goalies John Gibson and Jon Gillies combined on the shutout. Gibson stopped 19 shots through two periods, with Gillies making seven saves in the third. It was the first shutout for the United States at a WJC game since Dec. 30, 2010, when Jack Campbell made 14 saves in a 4-0 defeat of Germany during preliminary-round play at the 2011 WJC in Buffalo.
The eight-goal margin of victory puts the United States atop the Group B standings. Their three points for the regulation win ties them with Canada, but goal differential gives them the tiebreaker. Canada beat Germany 9-3 on Thursday.
Cupper, who plays for Shawinigan in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, made 38 saves on 46 shots.
The U.S. team started the game at full speed, as Kuraly scored 19 seconds into the game. Jacob Trouba's point shot through traffic at 8:30 made it 2-0, and Galchenyuk's goal made it 3-0 at 9:54.
"We were ready to play," Housley said. "We really wanted to focus on the start because we know Germany had a game in the building and got acclimated. We couldn’t have had a better start scoring early in the first and the second."
The United States kept rolling in the second period, with Barber's goal on the first shift making it 4-0. Shayne Gostisbehere's power-play goal made it 5-0 at 6:33, and 1:22 later, top 2013 NHL Draft prospect Ryan Hartman made it 6-0. Cole Bardreau caught Germany in a bad line change and sent Blake Pietila in alone on the German net. Cupper slid out to stop his shot, but the rebound went right to Hartman, who roofed a shot into a nearly empty net at 7:55.
The United States got into penalty trouble late in the second, giving Germany a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:39, but Gibson made four outstanding saves to preserve the shutout. Germany had another long two-man advantage in the third, but Gillies stopped everything Germany through at him during the 1:21 5-on-3 power play.
J.T. Miller and Seth Jones added goals in the third for the final margin of victory. Jones, a candidate to be the first player picked this June, jumped on a loose puck in the German end and fired a hard shot from the slot at 10:32 for the game's final goal. Jones also had an assist and was a team-best plus-5.
Now the focus turns to Russia, last year's silver medalists, who will be playing in front of a boisterous home crowd.
"They're a great opponent," Housley said. "They attack well. We're going to have to tighten it up even more and play a good road game. It's going to be a great atmosphere. It's a great game for [the U.S. players] to be in and try to shut Russia down defensively and maybe cash in on some opportunities."
In the other WJC game Thursday, Mike Kunzle scored twice as Switzerland beat Latvia 7-2.
The win temporarily puts Switzerland at the top of the Group A standings. The Swiss are tied with Finland and Sweden with three points each, but their plus-5 goal differential is the tiebreaker. Switzerland next plays Sweden on Friday, and Latvia next plays on Saturday, also against Sweden.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK