There isn't a player in the Canadian Hockey League who can match the offensive prowess of Nicolas Petan of the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks over the past two seasons.
That success has certainly carried over into the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship as a member of the Canadian National Junior Team.
Petan, who has 186 points in the past 103 games to lead all scorers in the CHL since the start of the 2012-13 campaign, scored two of the biggest goals of his career on Monday to help rally Canada to a 5-3 victory against Slovakia in preliminary round action before 2,558 fans at Malmo Isstadion in Sweden.
After spotting Slovakia a 3-1 lead in the second, the Canadians roared back to score four unanswered goals to earn their second win in the Group A bracket. Canada will conclude play in Group A against the United States on New Year's Eve at 11:30 a.m. ET (NHLN-US, NHL.com). Slovakia will meet Czech Republic in its final preliminary-round match on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. ET.
"This win was a huge boost of confidence for us," forward Jonathan Drouin told TSN.ca. "Every team is good in this tournament and we had a great comeback by our team. But it's behind us and now we have a big game [against the United States]."
The game was eerily reminiscent to the 2013 WJC in Ufa, Russia, when Slovakia also opened a 3-1 lead before Canada rallied for five straight to earn a 6-3 victory in preliminary-round play.
Petan's game-winner came on the power play at 17:14, giving Canada its first lead, 4-3.
"I just tried to be patient," Petan said. "I held onto it and found the open net. The way the goalie was playing it, I felt I could take the shot. We knew we would have to come back strong."
Petan took a feed from Anthony Mantha, Canada's player of the game, at the bottom of the right circle and patiently maneuvered his way to the front of the net, forced defenseman Martin Keckes to his knees and unleashed a wrist shot that beat goalie Samuel Baros over his right pad to the long side.
"We have an established play down low with [Petan]," Mantha said, referring to Petan gaining possession below the circle. "He just came out in front and had an open shot and took it. Fortunately it went in. It was great."
Petan would seal the deal just 1:26 later when he scored into an empty net with Baros pulled for the extra attacker. Canada outshot the Slovaks, 49-22, including a 15-4 margin in the third.
Petan, who has 20 goals and 66 points in 32 games for the Winterhawks this season, was a second-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in the 2013 NHL Draft. Canadian goalie Zachary Fucale, who was making his tournament debut, made 19 saves.
Slovakia, which has scored seven of 15 goals in the tournament via the power play, went 3-for-6 with the man advantage against Canada. The country also received some solid goaltending from Baros (44 saves), who was named Slovakia's player of the game.
"The refs maybe gave us a few penalties that shouldn't have happened, but that's part of the game," Mantha said. "I think [we] weren't concentrating on the game but more on the refs.
"We've showed that we could come back; it's nothing new to us. We knew we only needed one goal to tie the game entering the third period and we went after it."
Jonathan Drouin pulled his country into a 3-3 tie in the third when he collected a pass from Mantha in the slot and ripped home a shot at 14:02. Mantha did a great job to force a turnover behind the Slovak cage when he took the puck away from defenseman Erik Cernak before spotting Drouin cruising down the slot. Drouin made no mistake in notching his second of the tournament.
Canada pulled within 3-2 in the second when Mantha scored his fourth of the tournament. Drouin skated into the Slovak end and circled in the zone before feeding Aaron Ekblad at the right point. Ekblad, an A-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list for the 2014 draft, skated to the center point and drove a shot that rebounded to Mantha in front. The first-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings had his initial shot stopped, but he alertly jabbed in the rebound at 17:00.
The Slovaks had taken a 3-1 lead in the second on a pair of power-play goals.
"We got out of our element in the second period and took some bad penalties and we got away from what we wanted to do as far as our structure and our game," Canada coach Brent Sutter said. "In the third we had to pick up the urgency and be on our toes more."
Martin Reway ripped home his fourth goal of the tournament from the left hash over the shoulder of Fucale during a 5-on-3 advantage at 7:07 with Petan (holding) and Scott Laughton (high sticking) in the box.
"We took some dumb penalties," Petan said. "We know the refs are a little bit different over here in Europe, so we have to be better with that [against the United States]."
Fucale would come up big a little over three minutes later when Filip Mlyncar broke in one-on-one after blocking a right point shot attempt by Chris Bigras and turning the quick transition. Mlyncar's high shot from the left circle was snared by Fucale with his left glove.
Penalties to Matt Dumba (tripping) and Derrick Pouliot (slashing) gave Slovakia another 5-on-3 advantage for 57 seconds at 11:31 of the second. Just five seconds after Dumba's penalty expired, David Griger ripped a shot home off assists from Reway and Milan Kolena.
After allowing the opening goal of the game for the third straight time in the tournament, Canada pulled even when Curtis Lazar, who has arguably been Canada's best player, scored a power-play goal at 18:12. Mantha and Petan assisted on Lazar's first of the tournament.
The Canadians found themselves shorthanded almost immediately after the opening faceoff when Drouin was assessed two minutes for checking to the head of Reway just 10 seconds into the game. Drouin, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, was also given a 10-minute misconduct, forcing Sutter to shuffle the lineup.
"I had to respond the way I did because it was bad to take that penalty and hurt the team like that," Drouin said. "Brent [Sutter] let me know between periods, and that was good. He said I can't take that two-minute penalty and misconduct because it hurt our team. They scored on the power play and it made it 1-0; we wanted to score first and we couldn't do that because of my penalty. So I got the message and he let me know in the room; I was fine after."
With Drouin in the penalty box, Sutter opted to us Lazar on the top line with Charles Hudon and Mantha. The Slovaks would take a 1-0 lead at 1:40, however, when Griger gathered a pass off the end boards at the bottom of the left circle before sweeping a shot through the legs of defenseman Dumba and past Fucale on the short side on the power play. Jakub Predajniansky took the initial shot from the right point that banked off the boards behind Fucale right to Griger.
Despite allowing the early goal, Fucale did show good composure in making eight saves. Slovakia's Baros made 20 saves in the opening 20 minutes.
Finland 4, Russia 1 -- Saku Maenalanen, Joni Nikko, Rasmus Kulmala and Henrik Haapala scored to rally Finland to a win over previously unbeaten Russia in preliminary-round action of the Group B field at Malmo Arena.
Juuse Saros, a fourth-round pick of the Nashville Predators last June, made 28 saves, including 17 over the final two periods to give Finland (two wins, one loss, six points) a share of second place with Russia (two wins, one loss, six points) in the Group B standings.
Finland will conclude preliminary round play on New Year's Eve against Switzerland at 12 p.m. ET. Russia also closes out pool play Tuesday against host Sweden (three wins, nine points) at 8 a.m. ET.
After spotting Russia a 1-0 lead 5:27 into the first when Valeri Vasiliev connected off assists from Pavel Buchnevich and Mikhail Grigorenko, the Finns scored four straight.
Maenalanen squared the game in the second on a power-play goal at 2:21 before Haapala and Kulmala scored even-strength goals at 10:20 and 15:07, respectively. Nikko closed out the scoring with a power-play goal in the third at 7:39.
Germany 3, Czech Republic 0 -- Frederik Tiffels scored a pair of goals and added an assist and Marvin Cupper made 40 saves as Germany earned its first victory at the Malmo Isstadion.
Tiffels, who plays for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the United States Hockey League, gave Germany a 1-0 lead 14:25 into the first period when he lifted the puck past Marek Langhamer at the post. His second goal, which came on the power play, gave his country a 3-0 lead 17:51 into the second on a quick wrist shot just over the blue line.
Germany entered the game having lost three previous games in the tournament by a 24-4 margin.
In 10 previous losses against the Czech Republic, which upset Canada in a shootout on Saturday, the Germans were outscored 69-18. Cupper made a few highlight-reel stops in the third when the Czechs pressured often, but the 19-year-old left-hander stopped all 19 shots in his direction.
"The shutout speaks for the team," Cupper told the IIHF website. "We tried to skate a lot more than we did [in an 8-0 loss to the United States on Sunday]. The U.S. is a little better than the Czech Republic, but we skated better and followed the coach's plan better."
German alternate captain Dominik Kahun had a goal and an assist and won 69 percent of his faceoffs (18 of 26). Markus Eisenschmid won 15 of 23 draws (65 percent) in the win, which moved Germany into fourth place in Group A with three points. The Czechs, who have one preliminary-round match remaining against Slovakia on Tuesday, are in fifth with two points.
Germany, which was playing with only 17 skaters because of injury and suspension, has concluded play in the preliminary round and will need to await the result of Tuesday's Czech Republic-Slovakia game to determine whether or not it advances to the medal round.
"We feel like we're a team now," Tiffels said. "Everyone contributed. Everyone blocked a shot or made a big hit."
German captain Leon Draisaitl was given a match penalty for a hit from behind on Andrew Copp of the United States on Sunday. That infraction carried an automatic one-game suspension but he is eligible to return to the lineup for Germany's next game. Draisaitl is an A-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list for the 2014 draft.
Switzerland 3, Norway 2 -- Anthony Rouiller scored a power-play goal with 8:18 remaining as Switzerland avoided the relegation round and guaranteed itself a top-eight finish.
Fabrice Herzog and Mirco Mueller also scored for the Swiss, who received a 24-save effort from Melvin Nyffeler in goal.
Erlend Lesund and Christoffer Rasch scored the goals for Norway, and Joachim Svendsen turned aside 35 shots in a losing effort.
Rouiller one-timed a feed from Kevin Fiala for the decisive goal, just 2:42 after a power-play goal by Rasch had drawn Norway even.
Lesund opened the scoring 9:27 into the first period when he collected a loose puck in the neutral zone, split the Swiss defense and put a slap shot over Nyffeler's glove.
Herzog converted on a two-man advantage with 5:21 left in the second to tie the game for Switzerland, batting a Fiala pass out of mid-air. Mueller made it 2-1 at 6:17 of the third, converting the rebound of a Sandro Zangger shot.