TORONTO, ON - Underdogs no more? Team North America, a group comprised of the best players from Canada and the U.S. who are 23 years of age and under as of October 1, rolled over Team Finland 4-1 in their opening game of the World Cup of Hockey.
Jack Eichel from Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid. How about that scoring summary?
That terrific trio got the scoring started for Team North America, potting a power-play goal at 5:03 of the first period. 2015 second-overall pick Eichel poked the puck through Pekka Rinne, assisted by the last two first-overall picks.
The young team showed signs of chemistry, despite not much time together.
"I think it's just that everyone kind of thinks the game pretty well," said McDavid. "We've been juggling the lines a little bit so everyone has been trying to play with everyone. Tonight, it clicked."
Team North America lived up to their expectations as a fun team to watch in the opening 20 minutes.
It could have been 3-0 after the first in their favour, had it not been for two reviews that didn't go their way. The first came at 7:50 of the first. The puck just slipped past Rinne. No goal was called, but after a replay was shown in the building that drew a response from the crowd, the officials took a look.
It was ruled that the puck did not fully cross the line.
With less than three minutes remaining in the period, McDavid appeared to have his first goal of the tournament. Matthews spun and whipped the puck on net. McDavid hacked at the rebound and Rinne backed the puck into the net with his skate. Unfortunately for Team North America, a review found that Mark Scheifele had pushed a Finnish player into Rinne, causing interference on the goaltender.
Even with the pair of no-goals, the 23-and-under group was off to an exciting start to their tournament. It was a blazing start that continued in the second.
At 5:26 of the second period, Johnny Gaudreau scored on a remarkable deflection to make it 2-0. Colton Parayko kept the puck in at the blueline and fired a shot on net. Gaudreau spun on the spot and deflected the puck in with the shaft of his stick.
Then, at 7:27 of the second, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got his first assist of the tournament. The Oilers centre whacked at a rebound from Jonathan Drouin's shot and Drouin buried for a 3-0 lead.
Nathan MacKinnon went backhand-forehand, scooping up a Parayko-shot rebound in front. Team North America entered the third period up 4-0.
By the end of the second, Team North America was outshooting the Finns 31-18.
The scoring slowed, but the excitement did not in the third. Early in the final period, McDavid deked his way through the Finnish defence to drive the net for a chance, but was stopped by Rinne.
With less than three minutes to play, McDavid had a look at an open net from the side of the post but just hopped it through the crease.
Valtteri Filppula scored from the slot at 15:53 of the final frame to give Finland its first and only goal of the night.
Matt Murray rewarded Team North America Head Coach Todd McLellan's decision to start him with a 24-save, winning effort. The youngsters outshot Finland 43-25 for the game.
Despite the big win for the young guns, they still feel the underdog tag is accurate.
"We're playing the Russians tomorrow, who are absolute hockey giants," said McDavid. "It's going to be a good test for us be we're excited about it."