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MacKinnon Leads North America Past Europe

by Staff Writer / Colorado Avalanche

By Ryan Boulding & Ron Knabenbauer

NORTH AMERICA (4) vs. EUROPE (0)

Nathan MacKinnon was the star of the night in Team North America's first pre-tournament game.

The Colorado Avalanche forward scored the contest's opening goal against Team Europe on Friday and later tallied on a penalty shot to give the North Americans a 4-0 victory at the Videotron Centre in Quebec City.

"Our team was built on speed and skill, and we exploited that tonight," MacKinnon said to NHL.com after the contest.

Team North America is made up of players from Canada and the United States who are 23 years old or younger as of Oct. 1, 2016. Team Europe consists of players from countries outside of the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden.

MacKinnon started a scoring burst for North America during a power play at 3:52 of the second period, and Europe never recovered. MacKinnon collected the rebound from a shot by Aaron Ekblad that caromed off the end wall and swatted the puck past European goalie Jaroslav Halak to begin a run of three goals in 4:42.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for the young stars.

The highlight of the night might have come from MacKinnon's nifty puck handling skills during a penalty shot midway through the third period.

The 21-year-old from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, came in slow, went forehand to backhand with the puck seven times before getting Halak to bite, allowing him to float a backhander into the net.

MacKinnon drew the one-on-one chance after getting around defenseman Mark Streit, but then being taken down by the Philadelphia Flyers defenseman on a drive to the crease.

Selected first in the 2013 NHL Draft, MacKinnon played most of the game on the third line with fellow No. 1-overall picks Auston Matthews (2016) and Nugent-Hopkins (2011).

Team North America and Team Europe will meet again in another exhibition at 4 p.m. MT on Sunday at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The game will be streamed live online in the United States on ESPN3.

FINLAND (3) VS. SWEDEN (2) - OVERTIME

The first game of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey exhibition round was anything but a disappointment. Although neither team would be collecting points with a victory, that didn’t stop the Scandinavian battle from being a hard-hitting, fast-paced affair.

Sweden and Finland squared off at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland, on Thursday to kick off the tournament in a match that both teams considered important.

“There is pride on the line here. Both teams want to test their systems out, work out some kinks, do all the little things to prepare, but make no mistake, both teams also want to win,” Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog wrote in his World Cup diary on NHL.com on Thursday. “There is a history here between the two teams and the two countries, especially when it comes to hockey. You don't want to lose to Finland and they don't want to lose to us."

Ultimately, it was Finland that would come out ahead, taking away a 3-2 victory in overtime in what turned out to be a somewhat rough game for the Swedes.

The visiting team took three penalties in the first period and racked up seven total in the match, one of which led to Aleksander Barkov’s power-play tally in the middle stanza to open the scoring and give Finland the lead.

The Swedes countered less than a minute later when Loui Eriksson hammered home his own rebound, and Carl Soderberg gave Sweden its first lead of the contest when he had a shot ricochet off a defender and into the net in the third.

Landeskog assisted on the play and provided a screen in front of Finnish netminder Pekka Rinne, allowing the puck to pass through his legs on the way to the net.

The Finns tied the game 2-2 with 4:59 remaining in the final period and sealed the victory with a marker at 4:17 of the extra frame.

Soderberg finished with the goal, two hits, two takeaways and 13:33 of ice time. He factored heavily in Sweden’s penalty killing, logging 4:47 of time while shorthanded.

Landeskog ended the game with the assist, four hits, four minutes of penalty time and spent 13:54 on the ice. He was also used to kill penalties, often alongside Soderberg—the two were linemates at even strength as well.

Both teams will meet again, this time in Sweden, for an exhibition rematch on Saturday before traveling to North America to finish off the pre-tournament slate.

RUSSIA (4) VS. CZECH REPUBLIC (3)

Team Russia held off a late push by the Czech Republic and picked up a 4-3 win in its first contest of pre-tournament action at Yubileyny Sports Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Nikita Kucherov scored early in the second period to break open the game for Russia after the first period ended tied 1-1. Martin Hanzal got the Czechs within one goal 6:48 into the third period, but Evgeny Dadonov recorded the eventual game-winning marker exactly two minutes later. Czech captain Tomas Plekanec tallied with 2:47 remaining, but the visitors couldn't complete the comeback.

Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov did not play in the contest for the Russians, as he instead served as the backup for starter Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 29 saves on 32 shots. Varlamov is expected to see time in one of Russia's three pre-tournament games.

The two clubs will meet again on Saturday in Prague, Czech Republic, for their second exhibition in preparation for the World Cup of Hockey 2016. Game time is 8:30 a.m. MT, and it will be streamed live online on ESPN3.

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