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Canada beats Finland to stay perfect at WJC

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- Canada coach Benoit Groulx has done a fair amount of line-juggling thus far at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, but there is one line he has not had to touch since the start of selection camp in Toronto early this month.

That line has given him no reason to intervene, and doesn't look as though it is about to.

Linemates Sam Reinhart, Anthony Duclair and Max Domi had two points apiece and Zach Fucale made 27 saves to lead Canada to a 4-1 win against Finland on Monday in preliminary-round play.

"We don't intend on changing that line tomorrow, either," Groulx said with a smile when it was pointed out to him that Reinhart's was the only forward line that has remained intact.

You can't really blame him.

Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres) scored two goals, Duclair (New York Rangers) had a goal and an assist and Domi (Arizona Coyotes) had two assists for Canada (3-0-0-0), setting up a showdown for first place in Group A when it takes on the United States at Bell Centre on New Year's Eve (4 p.m. ET; NHL Network, TSN).

Though it was his linemates who wound up scoring the goals, Domi was a dominant presence at both ends of the ice for Canada, blocking shots and finding open teammates with perfect passes all night.

"He's very good. I don't know what else to say," Groulx said, before finding other things to say. "The way he is [playing], he's a leader by example. He plays with passion, and right now he's a three-zone player."

Captain Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators) also scored for Canada, which allowed its first goal of the tournament when Finland captain Artturi Lehkonen (Montreal Canadiens) scored at 18:26 of the second period.

Lazar was just as impressed as his coach with how Domi performed.

"He's electrifying whenever he steps on the ice," Lazar said. "He's winning over the fans and the country right now. It's awesome to watch, we feed off that energy and that excitement."

Finland (0-0-1-2), the defending champion, is still without a win in the tournament and has scored three goals in three games. Finland plays its final preliminary-round game against Germany (0-0-0-2) on Wednesday and will need a victory to avoid the relegation round.

"Now we can see how much character this team has," Lehkonen said. "If we bounce back and beat Germany, we can become stronger from this experience and we'll be a stronger team when we face Sweden or Russia or whoever we're going to face [in the quarterfinals]."

Goaltender Juuse Saros (Nashville Predators) gave Finland a chance with 32 saves, but with no offensive support it was not enough.

The 27 saves for Fucale (Montreal Canadiens) were two shy of Canada's total in its first two games combined, and he needed to be sharp early in the game to withstand a stiff Finland attack.

"It was fast-paced, back and forth," said Fucale, who was in goal last year when Finland beat Canada 5-1 in the WJC semifinal. "We expected a strong game from the Finns. We knew it would be a hard-fought game; they're very competitive. So we were ready for that and very confident coming into the game. I thought we played a very strong team game tonight."

Finland came in off an embarrassing 2-1 loss to Slovakia and desperate for its first win of the tournament. The result was a wildly entertaining start to the game with the teams going end to end and trading chances throughout the first period.

"None of our players had any pressure, they just wanted to enjoy the feeling and the atmosphere in this game," Lehkonen said. "I guess that's how we started the game, our emotions were on the surface and we were battling our hearts out. I guess that's why we played better than we played against Slovakia."

The one mistake made by Finland in the first period was a high-sticking penalty taken by defenseman Atte Makinen, and Canada capitalized to score its fourth power-play goal of the tournament on its eighth opportunity.

Reinhart made a crisp pass to the point to defenseman Shea Theodore (Anaheim Ducks) and cut directly to the front of the net. Theodore's shot arrived just as Reinhart did, and he tipped it off the post before putting the rebound behind Saros for his second of the tournament at 5:32.

What followed was a stretch of free-flowing, whistle-free hockey that had the Bell Centre crowd buzzing, with Fucale and Saros being forced into a series of difficult saves to maintain the 1-0 score. Fucale made a point-blank save on Lehkonen about a minute after Reinhart's goal, then stopped 2015 NHL Draft prospect Mikko Rantanen on a shot from the slot 20 seconds later.

The second period had the same furious pace as the first, highlighted early on by a Saros pad save on Lazar off a Connor McDavid feed about five minutes in, and a Fucale stop on Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh Penguins) after he wheeled completely around the Canada zone to create a shooting lane for himself just before the nine-minute mark.

Canada doubled its lead on a strange play after Domi and Finland defenseman Julius Honka (Dallas Stars) were tied up for about a minute deep in the Finland zone as Canada waited with the puck for them to get up and leave. Once that finally happened, Domi took a pass at the Finland blue line, re-entered the zone and sent a cross-ice feed to Duclair, who waited for Reinhart to free himself in front before feeding him for a tip-in at 13:34.

Canada appeared to be heading to the second intermission with a comfortable two-goal lead, but a mistake by defenseman Samuel Morin (Philadelphia Flyers) gave Finland some hope heading into the third. Morin coughed the puck up coming out of his zone to Lehkonen, who grabbed the loose puck and cut across the front of the net to beat Fucale, ending Canada's shutout streak at 158:28.

"We're not going to go through this tournament shutting out everyone," Lazar said. "That's not how it works."

Canada extended its lead to 3-1 at 11:15 of the third period when Domi cut to the front of the net and created a rebound for Duclair, who showed great patience to score his second of the tournament with Saros down and out.

Lazar made it 4-1 with his second of the tournament when he found the rebound of a Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg Jets) shot lying in the crease and poked it in before barreling into the net himself, improving Canada's power-play efficiency in the tournament to 50 percent (5-for-10).

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