UNITED STATES (4) vs. CANADA (2)
Friendly is a term oft used to describe an exhibition contest that serves no purpose other than to acquaint players with their game systems, strategies, coaches and teammates.
Friday night's friendly between Team USA and Canada in Columbus, Ohio, was anything but, as both sides battled in a tenacious, physical and significantly heated game in preparation for the preliminary round of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
It was personal.
Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene revealed as much on Wednesday in his World Cup diary on NHL.com.
“Playing back to back against USA is going to be for keeps. Neither team is going to wade in,” Duchene wrote. “We want to win both those games; we want to win every game we touch the ice for in this tournament.”
If you didn’t watch the match, you have no idea what you’re in for when these two clubs meet throughout the event—they play again on Saturday and are in the same group when the tournament starts.
If you haven’t watched any of these exhibition contests, you’ve been missing out.
The United States skated away with the 4-2 win when the storm cleared in Columbus, which came as a surprise to some given the talent-heavy roster that Canada has to work with.
In the first period, Zach Parise and Patrick Kane gave Team USA a lead it would never surrender. The players scored 1:05 apart to stun the Canadiens and take a lead into the first break.
Patrice Bergeron responded in the second, breathing new life into his squad as Canada pulled within one, but Joe Pavelski countered 2:30 later to push a 3-1 differential.
Scoring in the final frame mirrored that of the middle stanza, as Canada pushed back with a Drew Doughty maker before the U.S. sealed the win with an empty-net tally from Derek Stepan.
FIRST PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS | SECOND PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
There was still plenty of action in between the goals, as both sides scratched, clawed and literally fought their way through the contest. Each club finished the night with five penalties, and American forward Ryan Kesler was ejected after boarding Canadian rear guard Shea Weber. Keller received a major and a game misconduct for the play.
The game looked less like an exhibition and more like an Olympic medal match, perhaps at 80 percent speed, with scrappy and chippy play as prevalent and overall skill. Bodies were flying left and right in the contest, which featured 55 hits in all.
Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene skated in the loss, playing wing on a line with Joe Thornton and Claude Giroux. Duchene finished the night with one shot, three hits, one blocked attempt and 13:35 of playing time.
Avs defenseman Erik Johnson was a healthy scratch for the tilt. USA head coach John Tortorella’s plan is for him to play in Saturday’s rematch.