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Canada rallies to defeat Slovakia; two players ejected

by Mike G. Morreale

The Canadian National Junior Team rallied from a two-goal deficit despite having two players ejected from the game en route to a 6-3 victory over Slovakia on Friday at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.

After spotting the Slovaks a 3-1 lead when Marko Dano scored his second of the game at the 10:35 mark of the second, Canada connected for five straight goals. Mark Scheifele's deflection with just 59 seconds remaining in the second gave Canada its first lead, 4-3. Scheifele, a first-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, was named Canada's player of the game.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan Strome, who connected for a pair of goals in the game, completed the scoring in the third. Defenseman Morgan Rielly finished with a goal and two assists for Canada.

"As a team [this win] is going to help us down the road," Rielly told the media after the game. "We understood that each team in the tournament is pretty good and we have to play well every night. Obviously we were put to the test [Friday] and we played well down the stretch."

Canadian goalie Malcolm Subban finished with 25 saves on 28 shots.

"Malcolm was great and there was a flurry in the third where he was great and that's what we need from him," Nugent-Hopkins said.

Subban stopped all 13 shots he faced in the final period against the pressing Slovaks.

"He loves playing in the big games and he always seems to rise to the challenge and that's great for us," Nugent-Hopkins said. "He's going to have to keep doing that the rest of the tournament and I'm sure he will."

The victory gives Canada two victories and six points in two games in the Group B field. The country will next face the United States on Sunday.

Making the comeback somewhat more extraordinary was the fact Canada was playing with only 10 forwards in the lineup since J.C. Lipon and Anthony Camara were ejected on two separate infractions. Lipon was given a game misconduct for a check to the head at 13:39 of the first. Camara was also thrown out of the game after being whistled for a charging penalty on defenseman Patrik Luza at 6:21 of the second.

Camara's hit on Luza, whose head was down while playing the puck in his zone, left the Slovak motionless for a few seconds before he was carted off on a stretcher. He was taken to a local hospital for precautionary measures. Reports are that Luza was moving on his own.

Canada coach Steve Spott felt Camara's hit seemed to ignite his bench.

"Once that hit took place and Anthony came to the bench and we realized [at first] it would be a clean hit and there would be no call and then there was a call, I think our players rallied around that and as coaches we used that as a rallying point," Spott said.

The International Ice Hockey Federation indicated after the game that there would be no supplementary discipline review for Camara. The Federation will, however, review, the hit by Lipon. A determination will be made one way or another prior to Sunday's tilt against the United States.

Nugent-Hopkins, Canada's captain, was asked about the ejections during post-game interviews.

"Our job is to win games and their job is to referee so we'll just worry about our game," Nugent-Hopkins said.

A tripping penalty to Canada's Strome, who had pulled his country within 2-1 just 2:16 into the second, would ultimately give Slovakia a two-man advantage for 1:32. Dano would connect for his second of the contest on the 5-on-3 advantage.

Dano and Richard Buri would take penalties 18 seconds apart less than a minute later to give Canada a 5-on-3 advantage. Rielly ripped a shot from the left circle that deflected off the right hip of Slovakia's Branislav Rapac and past goalie Adam Nagy on the short side at 11:42.

Canada would pull into a 3-3 tie at 15:18 on a power-play goal by Ty Rattie off assists from Ouellet and Rielly. Canada would close out the scoring in the second when Scheifele was credited with his third of the tournament.

The Slovaks, coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to Russia on Wednesday, opened a 2-0 lead in the first period.

Dano, Slovakia's player of the game, opened the scoring when he jammed home a shot past goalie Subban from in the crease 2:53 into the first. Dano, a top 2013 draft-eligible prospect, fought off a check from Brett Ritchie in the slot before receiving a pass from Matus Matis and sliding home his first goal of the tournament.

The Slovaks outshot Canada, 11-5, in the opening 20 minutes.

Tomas Mikus gave Slovakia a 1-0 edge 15:28 into the first on a power-play goal. Lipon was whistled for a major penalty for checking to the head of Slovakia's Tomas Mikus, in addition to being given a game misconduct at 13:39. Just 1:49 into the advantage, Martin Reway curled the Canadian net and found Mikus alone in the left circle. Mikus gathered the puck and ripped a shot top shelf over the blocker of Subban.

"After that opening 20 minutes, we told each that we had to get going and that's what we did," Rielly said. "[Slovakia] is a great team so we're pretty happy to get the win."

Slovakian goalie Adam Nagy, who finished with 24 saves, needed only five blocks in the first as the trapping Slovaks kept Canada at bay.

Canada is 8-0-1 all-time against Slovakia at the WJC.

In other early action at the 2013 WJC on Friday, the Czech Republic scored a 3-1 upset over Finland in preliminary-round play in Group A at the Ufa Sports Palace.

Los Angeles Kings prospect Tomas Hyka and 2013 draft-eligible defenseman Marek Hrbas scored 2:17 apart in the first when the Czech Republic opened a 2-0 advantage.

Goalie Patrik Bartosak (2013 draft eligible) made 29 saves for the Czechs, including 12 in the first and 10 in the third. Finland had pulled to within 2-1 just 2:29 into the second on a goal by Chicago Blackhawks prospect Teuvo Teravainen.

Dmitrij Jaskin scored into an empty net with just four seconds showing to close out the scoring for the Czechs (one win, three points). Finland has one win and one loss with three points in Group A. The Czechs upset the United States at the 2012 WJC in Edmonton and ultimately finished fifth after dropping a 2-1 decision to Russia in the quarterfinals of the medal round.

Contact Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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