Great players put a bad game behind them, move on and address criticism with a strong outing in the next one. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins did that Monday vs. France, posting two goals and an assist in a dominant 7-2 Canadian win.
Along with linemate Patrick Sharp, who notched a goal and four assists in the contest, the pair mixed magic early as the Blackhawks-Oilers connection cashed 1:59 in. Just steps inside the French blueline, Sharp pounced on a turnover and dished to RNH in the slot, who wasted little time in redirecting the pinpoint delivery past goalie Frabrice Lhenry.
Canada added three more in the opening period, one by Sharp as he extended to a two-point night on a power-play (assisted by Nugent-Hopkins), and a pair by Dallas Stars youngster Jamie Benn, scoring from in tight and then with a laser through a screen at 17:21.
France got one back 2:01 later, just 38 seconds before the period expired. An ill-advised and softly-offered pass by the usually solid Duncan Keith was picked off in the slot by Brian Henderson, who snapped a quick shot that beat Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
In the win, Dubnyk made 19 saves on France’s 21 three-period shots in his first action of the 2012 World Championship. It was the 26-year-old’s third career start at the tournament after sitting in a backup or third string role in each of the past two years.
With the game cleanly in hand, the teams traded goals in the second period. For Canada, another Oiler did the damage as Jordan Eberle tallied his second of the tournament. Sharp placed a shot on goal that was scooped up by Eberle, who made no mistake in depositing the garbage.
Just 30 seconds later, France’s Antoine Roussel intercepted a clearing attempt by Dubnyk. No. 40 kicked out the first shot, but the rebound was by potted by Brian Henderson at the doorstep.
Nugent-Hopkins collected his second of the night 9:56 into the third, connecting on a cross-crease pass by Sharp and lifting it up over top Lhenry for the goal.
Corey Perry added another Canadian marker late, stamping Canada’s 7-2 victory.
In addition to Nugent-Hopkins’ three-point outing, he was also much improved in the faceoff circle. After going 0-for-6 vs. the US Saturday, RNH put up a 3-3 record in six one-on-one dot battles all in only 13:38 of ice time.
Canada gets Tuesday off before returning to action on Wednesday vs. Switzerland. Puck drop is at 11:15am MT.
CZECH REPUBLIC 4 vs. NORWAY 3 (SO)
Oilers winger Ales Hemsky scored a goal in regulation and another in a shootout (the only goal to be scored on the teams’ six combined attempts), propelling the Czech Republic to a 4-3 win and into a tie with Russia and Sweden atop the Stockholm Group standings with six points.
The Czechs didn’t do themselves any favours in the game’s early going, taking four straight minor penalties, including a pair by Hemsky before the game was 11 minutes old. On an ensuing 5-on-3 chance at 11:16, Mathias Lamb collected a Jonas Holos rebound and popped it behind an out-of-position Jakub Stepanek.
Hemsky brought his club back on even terms with only 3:19 to play in the period. Ex-Oiler Petr Nedved, who’s shown great chemistry with the Oilers’ current Czech star, picked Henrik Solberg’s pocket and raced down the wing with No. 83; a cross-ice feed followed, which was tapped home by Hemsky whose strong net-drive secured the goal.
Norway took the lead once again, 1:39 into the second when Lars Erik Spets accepted an Anders Bastiansen centering pass, rifling a shot by the Czech netminder.
Trailing 2-1 late in the second, David Krejci squared the score late in the period, putting the clubs back on even terms heading into the third. The Czech Republic’s Michal Frolik got the go-ahead goal near the period’s eight-minute mark, but Holos responded with his second of the game, 2:55 later, to make it a 3-3 game.
The squads remained tied through overtime, sending the game to a shootout.
With a simple forehand deke on goaltender Lars Haugen, Hemsky scored the shootout’s only goal, securing a 4-3 Czech victory.
Hemsky’s Czech Republic get back at it Thursday vs. Latvia. Puck drop is at 11:15am MT.
SLOVAKIA 4 vs. USA 2
Coming into Monday’s action, Slovakia was still without a win through two games at the 2012 World Championship. And given that it had been 12 years since the Slovaks last toppled the Americans (even though a head-to-head encounter hadn't happened since 2007), the result seemed inevitable.
But it wasn’t. Not even close, as the previously unbeaten Americans dropped a 4-2 score.
Slovakia started strong. Just 47 seconds in, Dominik Granak pounced on a Libor Hudacek rebound, tapping the puck past an unaware Jimmy Howard between the American pipes.
Howard made 28 saves on 31 shots in the loss.
Team USA soon succumbed to a 2-0 disadvantage as Branco Radivojevic raced end-to-end, launching a snapshot that eluded Howard’s glove-side grasp at 15:04. The US responded only 37 seconds later, however.
Kyle Okposo and Jim Slater helped set up a Justin Faulk point shot, which found its way through a maze and the wickets of goaltender Jan Laco to get the red, white and blue on the board.
The Americans couldn’t get any closer than a one-goal deficit, as a crushing blow was dealt late in the first. With only six seconds to play in the period, Howard was tested with a steady barrage of last-second shots -- stopping a pair, but losing the battle as Andrej Sekera stepped into a slapper that made it a 3-1 game.
Paul Stastny cashed the US’ second goal of the night 8:47 into the second, but an empty-netter in the final minute by Miro Satan sealed a 4-2 win for Slovakia.
Oilers defenceman Jeff Petry had a quiet night, playing only 12:39 and collecting a -1 rating in the loss.
The United States get back at it Thursday vs. Belarus. Puck drop is at 7:15am MT.
ROUND ROBIN SCHEDULE & RESULTS (all times mountain) Friday, May 4: