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Russia Stuns North America With Four-Goal Surge

by Ryan Boulding @rboulding / ColoradoAvalanche.com

RUSSIA (4) vs. NORTH AMERICA (3)

There was no lack of goalscoring in Toronto on Monday night as an experienced Team Russia took on the youthful and exuberant Team North America at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario.

Known for their run-and-gun style of play, the North Americans were stunned during a second-period let down that ultimately led to a 4-3 loss.

Soon-to-be NHL rookie forward Auston Matthews opened the scoring in the first period, putting North America on top until nearly halfway through the middle frame. That's when Russia struck back.

After failing to convert on consecutive power-play opportunities, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov and Evgeny Kuznetsov tallied three times on three shots over a 4:08 span to take command of the game. Vladimir Tarasenko upped the score to 4-1 just 2:06 later.

When the dust settled, North America goaltender Matt Murray was relieved in favor of John Gibson.

"We did a poor job in front of Matt in the first period and a half," Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon said of the change. "It did spark us. It was a wake up call."

Although they seemed down and out, the under-23 squad fed off the backstopper switch, scoring one marker to finish the second-from Morgan Rielly-and another on a power play in the third-from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-to make things interesting again.

Despite a late-game surge to get an equalizer, Team North America fell 4-3.

"We lost our way a little bit in the second period. I think that's obvious, stating the obvious. Couldn't kill the momentum. They came at us real quickly for a series of goals, and it took us a little while to get it back," head coach Todd McLellan told reporters after the match. "But I think it's a good sign for us that we were able to regroup and claw back into the game and have a chance at the end at least."

MacKinnon finished the game with an assist on the third goal, six shots, two penalty minutes and a plus-1 rating. 

"It was a loss, but I think we can take a lot of positives from the way we finished," MacKinnon said after the game. "We battled back."

Russian netminder Semyon Varlamov didn't skate in the victory as he served as a backup to Sergei Bobrovsky.

Team North America concludes preliminary play on Wednesday with a 1 p.m. MT matchup versus Team Sweden. Team Russia does the same on Thursday with a 1 p.m. MT contest against Team Finland. Both games will be broadcast on ESPN.

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