Griffin Reinhart earned his lofty draft status based on his size and defensive skill. But in the first game of the 2012 Memorial Cup, it was the defenseman's offensive skill that proved to be the difference in the game.
Reinhart, No. 10 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft, had a goal and an assist as the Western Hockey League champion Edmonton Oil Kings opened the Memorial Cup with a 4-3 win against the host Shawinigan Cataractes at Bionest Centre.
Another 2012 draft prospect, Henrik Samuelsson, scored the winning goal with 6:18 left in the third period, one-timing a Stephane Legault pass past Shawinigan goalie Alex Dubeau just 23 seconds after Shawinigan tied the game.
Samuelsson, the son of former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, is No. 75 on Central Scouting's final ranking.
Reinhart started the play that led to the winning goal, holding a Maximillien Le Sieur clearing attempt at the left point. He sent a diagonal pass to Legault in the right circle. Legault found Samuelsson alone in the slot.
"As you know, Griff is a pretty good player and so is Legault," Samuelsson said. "They saw that right away and I was just the lucky one who got to shoot it in."
Oil Kings goalie Laurent Brossoit made the lead hold up the rest of the way, including shutting down a Shawinigan power play with less than five minutes left. The Calgary Flames draft pick finished with 30 saves on 33 shots.
Michael Chaput scored a pair of goals for Shawinigan, which was playing its first game in more than a month. Dubeau stopped 20 of 24 shots. They out-shot the Oil Kings 33-25, including 14-11 in the third period.
"A chance here and there and it could have been our game easily," defenseman Morgan Ellis, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, said. "We played good for the most part."
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The teams traded goals in the first period, but after a scoreless second, Reinhart put Edmonton ahead just 1:01 into the third when he carried the puck out of the Edmonton zone and skated to the top of the left circle in the Shawinigan zone. Under only token pressure, he fired a shot that Dubeau couldn't handle.
"I can take that shot 100 times and maybe it goes in once," Reinhart said. "I was lucky enough for it to happen."
Edmonton went ahead 3-1 on a goal from Oilers prospect Martin Gernat. With the teams skating four-on-four, Edmonton's Rhett Rachinski beat Chaput on a faceoff in the Shawinigan end, winning the puck back to Oil Kings captain Mark Pysyk. The 2010 first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres slid the puck to Gernat at the left point, and his shot through traffic eluded Dubeau at 5:40.
Shawinigan rallied to tie the game on goals by Anton Zlobin and Chaput.
At 6:37 of the third, Zlobin raced past Reinhart and shoveled the puck on net. Brossoit had the puck in his pads but couldn't control it and it trickled over the goal line. Referees initially waved the goal off, but after a replay review, the goal stood.
Chaput's second of the game tied it at 3-3. Edmonton defenseman Keegan Lowe
attempted to start out from behind his net, but he fumbled the puck in the slot. A forechecking Chaput pounced on the turnover and beat Brossoit at 13:19.
Just seconds later, though, Samuelsson scored the winner.
The Oil Kings are off until Monday, when they face the defending Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league. Shawinigan next plays Sunday, against Ontario Hockey League champion London Knights.
The round-robin portion of the four-team tournament continues Saturday when Saint John faces London.
Edmonton opened the scoring just 2:41 into the game when Michael St. Croix skated hard to the net and sent a short pass to Kristians Pells, who one-timed it past Dubeau.
The Cataractes answered minutes later on Chaput's five-on-three goal. With Lowe already in the box for holding, Pysyk was called for roughing, giving Shawinigan a two-man advantage. Brandon Gormley, a 2010 first-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, fired a shot from the left point that bounced in and out of Brossoit's glove. Chaput, a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect, was in the right spot to score on the rebound at 8:36.
The game was the first for the host Cataractes since April 17, when they lost to Chicoutimi in Game 7 of the QMJHL quarterfinals.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK