What a way to end the night cap of Sunday's triple header to open the World Juniors. The United States began their title defense in dramatic fashion thanks in large part to Cats second first-rounder of this past year's draft (#25 overall) Nick Bjugstad
as he scored the overtime game-winner to upend Team Finland 3-2.
Tied at two and headed into the extra session, Bjugstad took it upon himself to gain the extra point without having to go to the shootout as he fired a shot that beat Joni Ortio between his right arm and his body for the winner with 1:52 left to play in the five-minute session.
"I think that's number one definitely" said Bjugstad when asked where that goal ranked on his list. "As big of a tournament like this, I've never been in one as big as this."
It was a closely guarded affair as both sides tried to limit the opportunities and miscues in the first game for both teams and that was the case most of the night.
"I think you have a little bit of nerves coming in to a game like this, especially our first game of the tournament," said Panthers prospect Drew Shore
. "But I think we got those out of the way and I think we'll be better next game."
"It was an OK game," said Panthers prospect and Finnish forward Joonas Donskoi
(drafted 99th overall in 2010 NHL Entry Draft. "A lot of things that we need to do better. It was sad to lose but it was a good fight and an OK game."
|Drew Shore talks following the USA's 3-2 overtime win over Finland |
The United States had the first great chance in the game. Coming midway through the first and while killing a penalty, Jerry D'Amigo stripped a Finnish player and raced down the ice on a 2-on-1 with Jason Zucker. Ortio came up with a great pad save to keep the game scoreless.
The host country would find the back of the net with time running out in the opening period as Justin Faulk let one rip, beating Ortio up high with 1:06 left to play.
Finland's Erik Haula had several opportunities in the second period to tie the score or give Finland the lead. Set up with a wide open net, he missed it wide with just over 13 minutes to play. After Finland found the back of the net thanks to a turnover created by Toni Rajala who found Joonas Nattinen with 6:10 remaining for the one-timer, Haula had a great chance on a rush but Campbell was able to hold onto the puck while looking behind him.
Jason Zucker gave the US the lead with 4:52 remaining in the second as he stole the puck from a Finnish defenseman in the corner, walked out and roofed it over Ortio.
In the third period, the United States had several opportunities to make it a 3-1 game as Kyle Palmieri found himself all alone one-on-one with the goaltender with 15 minutes to play but hit the post. Later Jeremy Morin actually did find the back of the net but Bjugstad was in the blue paint and interfered with Ortio. With 7:16 to go, Charlie Coyle found the puck on his stick from just outside the crease but Ortio stopped him with the glove.
"It was definitely kind of an up and down game," said Shore. "We played some periods. The first period I thought we came out good. We struggled in the second."
Only down one, Finland found the equalizer thanks to some good fortune. Haula took a shot but didn't get all of it. Campbell made the save but it bounced right back to Pakarinin who just got enough of it to knot it at two.
Looking to regain the lead, Palmieri had a golden opportunity as he found himself in another one-on-one situation with 5:07 left in the third. With an open net after deking the netminder silly he missed the shot wide.
"I think we started off pretty well but they took it to us the second and third period," said Bjugstad. "Fortunately Jack Campbell played well. He kept us in it. A little adversity for the team and I think that will help us down the road in the tournament."