Canada continues to get better at the 2012 World Hockey Championship.
So does Jordan Eberle.
The 21-year-old notched a goal and an assist, leading his club to a 3-2 win over Switzerland and earning Player of the Game honours in the process.
Just 100 seconds in, Switzerland grabbed a 1-0 lead when Damien Brunner cashed the icebreaker. Surprising the sleepy Canucks with a determined up-ice burst, Goran Bezina delivered a long-range pass to the doorstep; Brunner connected, one-timing the puck past a helpless Cam Ward at the lip of the 'tender's crease.
Ward, 28, was making his third start of the tournament, hoping to improve on his 3.45 goals-against average and .896 save percentage. In total, he answered 28 of Switzerland’s 30 shots.
13 of them came in the first period, while another 14 came in the third when Switzerland trailed on two separate occasions, running to match and surpass Canada’s goal-scoring pace.
It wasn’t a highlight period by any stretch for the Canadians, but the red and white made their ninth shot count early in the second, making it a 1-1 game 40 seconds in.
The puck pinballed around inside the Swiss zone, allowing Ward’s Carolina teammate, Jeff Skinner, to hop on the loose disc. The NHL sophomore corralled the bouncing puck, putting a shot on goal and having the rebound sit for either Jordan Eberle or John Tavares to deposit. Eberle picked it up on his backhand, gunning a quick shot that redirected off Tavares’ skate and in.
Eberle, who recorded 34 goals and 76 points in 78 regular-season games with the Oilers this past season, extended to a point-per-game pace when he scored the go-ahead goal, his second point of the night, at 10:21.
Eberle made a cross-ice cut, snaking into the slot and then to the far side where he rifled a backhander, beating Tobias Stephan clean. Through four games, No. 14 has put up three goals and one assist.
Just 2:08 later, however, it was a tie game once more. Similar to the Swiss’ earlier tally, Canada’s defence wilted in allowing their opponent to walk in and attempt a high-quality scoring chance. This time, it was Bezina who was given time and space in the slot. He took advantage, slaloming his way through the middle and launching a wrister that beat a partially-screened Ward through the wickets.
Later on at 8:02, Canada got it back. Captain Ryan Getzlaf scooped up a loose puck in his own end, raced up ice on a 2-on-1 and whistled a slapshot that left a vapor trail en route to the meshing on Stephan’s blocker side.
That was all the Canadians needed, as Ward held off the Swiss’ late-period surge in a 3-2 win.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was the hero vs. France in collecting three points, had a quiet outing vs. Switzerland. RNH continued to improve his faceoff numbers, scoring a 60-percent success rate; in 15:13 of ice time, he added two shots on goal and was -1.
With the victory, Canada vaults into first place in the Helsinki group standings -- one point over Finland, who was idle (and now has a game at hand) Wednesday. The red and white’s next test will come Friday against those very same Finns. Puck drop is at 11:15am MT, and the action can be seen live on TSN.
ROUND ROBIN SCHEDULE & RESULTS (all times mountain) Friday, May 4: