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#CBJ at the Worlds: May 1

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

May 1 was Day 1 (pardon that, thank you) at the 2015 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Prague and Ostrava in the Czech Republic. There were three teams with Blue Jackets ties getting started on Friday, and first up was Canada – bringing quite a stacked lineup to the tournament – taking on Latvia. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as close or exciting as Latvia’s near-upset of Canada at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

The Canadians scored three goals in the first 14:11, at times overpowering Latvia and spending the majority of the first period in the offensive zone. Canada’s top line of Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and Jason Spezza led the way on the scoresheet, with MacKinnon opening the scoring and Spezza finishing with two goals on the afternoon.

Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard picked up an assist on the first Canada goal thanks to a timely pinch down the wall to keep the play alive. Savard played only 10:52 in the 6-1 victory, but registered three shots on goal in limited action.

Canada has a day off on Saturday before facing Germany on Sunday in Prague.

Ok, so maybe this wasn’t the result everyone expected going into the day, but Team USA definitely earned its three points in today’s opener.

Steve Moses, this year’s leading goal scorer in the KHL who recently signed with the Nashville Predators, got things started for the Americans with a wicked backhander from a bad angle on Pekka Rinne to make it a 1-0 game late in the first period. It was a big goal for the U.S., as they had to withstand a strong period from Finland right out of the chute.

[HUB]: Follow the Blue Jackets at the 2015 IIHF World Hockey Championship

Connor Hellebuyck made the start in goal for head coach Todd Richards and certainly did his part; the AHL All-Star from the Winnipeg Jets organization made 29 saves – including a few timely ones in the first two periods – to steady Team USA, and they never trailed from start to finish.

Captain Matt Hendricks scored the go-ahead goal (and eventual game-winner) on a rebound in the second period, after Dan Sexton made a nice play at his own blue line to steal the puck and create a breakaway chance. Rinne made the initial save, but Hendricks drove the net and buried the rebound from the lip of the crease.

Sexton, Nick Bonino and Hendricks again (into the empty net) followed for Team USA, which faces Norway tomorrow in Ostrava. The game will air live at 2:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra (online streaming).

From the Blue Jackets, forward Jeremy Morin and prospect defenseman Mike Reilly (Univ. of Minnesota) made their World Championship debuts for the U.S., while Richards got the win in his first career game as Team USA’s head coach.

“Our goaltender was very good, and made some key saves for us at important times of the game – not only in the first period, but throughout the game,” Richards said. “We were opportunistic in scoring some goals. It was 3-1 going into the third period, and once we got the fourth, I think that helped us confidence-wise and I think we started to play, started to skate. Now we have to get ready for our game tomorrow night.”

The defending champions, the Russians got their World Championship off to a solid start with a cruise-control win over Norway. Russia stormed out of the gate, scoring four times in the first period and holding Norway to only one shot on goal in the opening 20 minutes, making for a rather uneventful evening for Sergei Bobrovsky, who made the start in goal for Russia.

Russia is quite pleased to have Bobrovsky back between the pipes; he was their MVP a year ago at this tournament, allowing only nine goals in eight games en route to a gold medal victory. Bobrovsky is backed up this year by Carolina's Anton Khudobin.

Blue Jackets center Artem Anisimov scored a nice goal in the first period, a backhand-to-forehand deke (that you may have seen a few times before) that gave Russia a 2-0 lead only three minutes into the game.

It was all right from there for Bobrovsky and the Russians. Bobrovsky finished with 17 saves on the night to pick up the win, and Russia now has Saturday off before facing Slovakia on Sunday.

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