TORONTO, ON - In an intense bout, Team North America battled back from down 4-1 to make it 4-3 in the third. Russia would hold on to win by the lone goal, despite heavy pressure from the young guns.
The Air Canada Centre World Cup of Hockey crowd did not have to wait long to see what all the talk was about with Team North America's explosiveness.
Connor McDavid blazed up the right wing, out-skating the Russians as he drove the net. The centre, and captain for Team North America, placed a perfect pass right on the stick blade of Auston Matthews back door for the 1-0 lead at 14:46 of the first period.
Matthews was just as impressive, breaking free on the back side for the great feed. It was Matthews' first goal in this building after being taken first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2016 NHL Draft. Mark Scheifele had the secondary assist on the opening tally.
At 5:32 of the second period, McDavid had a breakaway but couldn't finish the play. The Russians then began their surge.
Russia tied the game 9:29 into the second period. Vladislav Namestnikov had his shot pop in past the sprawling Matt Murray.
The North Americans had a rush one way, only to see a 3-on-2 come back the other. Alex Ovechkin lambasted a shot off the post.
Moments later, Nikita Kucherov batted a bouncing puck out of the air and past Murray for the 2-1 lead.
With 6:23 remaining in the second, Evgeny Kuznetsov drove the puck wide and sniped a shot behind Murray to push the lead to 3-1.
The Russian rampage continued at 15:43 of the second. Vladimir Tarasenko whipped a shot from the top of the circle and chased Murray from the net. With Russia up 4-1, North America put John Gibson between the pipes.
At 17:56 of the second, Morgan Rielly stopped the bleeding and gave North America a much needed shot of hope. The defenceman stepped into a shot and found twine to make it 4-2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Johnny Gaudreau had the helpers.
Immediately following the goal, North America played with some renewed energy and took the puck down the ice for a chance, drawing a penalty shortly thereafter. With the final seconds ticking off the clock, they made a valiant push to pull within one.
However, North America went into the intermission down a pair.
Video: WORLD CUP | Sept. 19 Post-Game
A power play early in the third gave North America continued life. Nathan MacKinnon, who was screening the goaltender, kicked the puck to his stick and then tapped it back to Nugent-Hopkins in the slot. The Oilers centreman scored to cut the Russian lead to one, 3:01 into the frame.
McDavid took a hooking penalty at 6:47, setting up a key penalty kill for the North Americans. The young team showed they were up to the task, killing off the penalty. Upon his return to the ice, McDavid came speeding down the right wing to fire a shot into the chest of Sergei Bobrovsky.
Russian tripping and delay-of-game penalties gave the North Americans a lengthy 5-on-3 power play in the third. They could not capitalize on the two-man advantage, and negated the remainder of their power play with a penalty of their own.
Time was becoming the enemy for Team North America's comeback efforts. With 1:48 remaining in the game, they pulled Gibson for the extra attacker. They got a rapid succession of chances on net as time winded down.
The Russians held on to beat Team North America in an absolute thriller. North America outshot their opponent 45-25, but was held to just one of seven on the power play.
North America (1-1) takes on Sweden (1-0) Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. MT.