Twenty minutes was enough to put an entire country on pins and needles. The next 40 felt like a giant party across this gigantic land.
After a surprisingly scoreless first period, Canada broke open its pool play opener against Norway with a pair of goals in the first five minutes of the second period. The hosts went on win going away, 8-0, in front of a raucous red-clad crowd of 16,652 inside Canada Hockey Place.
Jarome Iginla and Dany Heatley staked Canada to a 2-0 lead before Mike Richards added a goal later in the second period. Iginla would score two more before the final buzzer for a hat trick, while Ryan Getzlaf, Heatley and Corey Perry added goals in the third period for the final result.
Roberto Luongo went swaths of time without seeing much action, but he was perfect on 15 shots and Canada killed off five penalties. Sidney Crosby and Iginla finished with a game-high three points.
"When you talk to the people in the media or people outside hockey, they will tell you that you are supposed to win the game. But I have been to a lot of these events and it's not always like that," Canada coach Mike Babcock said. "I think it's important for you to not just go out and score five goals in the first period. You have to battle through some adversity. The last time a Canadian team won in the Olympics, they lost to Sweden. That was the adversity they needed to get her going and to understand how everyday is going to be. Ideally, or hopefully we don't need that."
It was clear throughout the game that Canada's size, speed and strength was too much for the overmatched Norwegians. The Canadians controlled the play and limited Norway to only 15 shots while peppering the opponent's goalies with 42.
Norway pulled its starting goalie, Pal Grotnes, after Getzlaf scored 4:29 into the third period to make it 4-0. Grotnes apparently had some cramping issues, but his replacement, Andre Lysenstoen, could barely get in the way of the puck.
Heatley, Perry and Iginla's pair against Lysenstoen in the final 15 minutes produced the 8-0 rout. The final score is important because goal differential is a criterion in the tie-breaking system.
"We wanted to keep scoring," Rick Nash told NHL.com. "We know the tie-break situation and all of that. It was a good game and wanted to score as many as we could."
They didn't score until more than 22 minutes had passed and more than just a few hearts throughout the country started beating maybe a bit too fast.
Canada outshot Norway 14-4 in the first period but failed on a pair of power plays. The players blamed nerves and a lack of chemistry for the scoreless 20 minutes. They needed time to get used to one another because one practice was not enough.
"I think it was combinations of chemistry, nerves and excitement," Nash said. "It was loud out there, and this game has been anticipated for six years. To get the jitters out in the first period, I think that was the biggest case for us."
The hosts didn't show any nerves coming out for the second period. Iginla brought the house down with Canada's first goal of the Olympics, a power-play goal 2:30 into the period when he rifled home a one-timer from the high slot.
Crosby deserves credit for making the play happen as he waited patiently in the right circle for the D to move before feeding Iginla for the easy one-timer.
"I'm just backing up and backing up, hoping that I'm open, but he's the one that can see it," Iginla said. "He made one little fake and put it right there in the wheelhouse and Nash is right in front. I don't think the goalie is able to see that one."
Interestingly, that was the first time we saw Iginla skating with Crosby and Nash. That was a trio Babcock put together in the Olympic orientation camp back in August, but he started Patrice Bergeron as the right wing on Crosby's line Tuesday.
Bergeron dropped to the fourth-line rotation with Brenden Morrow, Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews when Babcock moved Iginla up. The chemistry was evident between Crosby, Nash and Iginla, who also tic-tac-toed to create a goal in the third period.
"I think it's real important to have a whole bunch of hungry players here, and it's interesting that all the guys that were real hungry played so well," Babcock said. "Iggy would be one of them. Maybe that's just some information for the coach there."
Less than three minutes after Iginla made it 1-0, Heatley struck for his first of the game by getting his stick on Chris Pronger's shot from the left point, deflecting the puck enough so it fooled Grotnes and went into the net at 4:47.
That's when you could feel the pressure leave the building. The party was on.
"(Grotnes) made some good saves early, but we did a good job settling in and getting used to things and in the second period got a couple and got things rolling," Heatley said.
With a 2-0 lead in their pocket and the ability to breathe a little easier, Canada kept its unrelenting pressure on the helpless Norwegians and cashed in again on Richards' wrap-around goal at 11:06.
Canada actually killed a 5-on-3 for 48 seconds before Richards' goal. Bergeron was in the box and then Eric Staal went for tripping. He was coming out of the net when Richards tucked the puck past Grotnes at the right post.
The underdogs had no answer for the Canadians in the third. Iginla's third goal was originally awarded to Nash, but was changed after the game.
"We just want to make sure we are better the next game than we were today," Crosby said. "It's a short tournament and we just want to keep getting better. Tonight was the start of that."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com
CAN 0 3 5 - 8
NOR 0 0 0 - 0
Penalties - Weber CAN (high sticking) 7:39, Jakobsen NOR (hooking) 13:09, Spets NOR (holding) 17:59.
1. CAN, Iginla (Crosby, Doughty) 2:30 (PPG)
2. CAN, Heatley (Pronger, Thornton) 4:27
3. CAN, Richards (Bergeron, Weber) 11:06
Penalties - Hansen NOR (holding) :43, Bergeron CAN (interference) 7:54, Staal CAN (tripping) 9:06, Bastiansen NOR (tripping) 14:37, Heatley CAN (slashing) 18:33.
4. CAN, Getzlaf (Niedermayer, Toews) 4:29
5. CAN, Heatley (Marleau, Boyle) 6:43 (PPG)
6. CAN, Iginla (Nash, Crosby) 7:36
7. CAN, Perry (Staal, Boyle) 11:03
8. CAN, Iginla (Nash, Crosby) 18:11
Penalties - Crosby CAN (roughing) 1:23, Jakobsen NOR (hooking) 6:43, Bastiansen NOR (high sticking) 18:57.
SHOTS ON GOAL
CAN 14 16 12 - 42
NOR 4 6 5 - 15
Goaltenders (goals-shots against) - CAN: Luongo (W,0-15); SUI: Grotnes (L, 4-32), Lysenstoen (4-10).
Power plays (goals-chances) - CAN: 2-6; NOR: 0-5.