Canada, the favorite to win a third straight gold medal at the World Junior Championships, continued its early dominance of the tournament on Wednesday, crushing Team USA 6-3 in Mora, Sweden. Three Rangers prospects played a big role in the victory, which lifted Canada's record to 2-0-0 in Group A, while dropping Team USA to 0-1-1.
Rangers prospect Tom Pyatt had the biggest night of all the future Rangers in Mora, scoring a goal and assisting on another . He notched Canada's second goal of the game on a power play at 17:33 of the opening period, giving the Canadians a 2-0 lead after one. Pyatt's goal came only 19 seconds after Team USA's Ryan Stoa was sent off for kneeing.
Pyatt later set up another power play goal, by Jonathan Toews at 1:55 of the second period, putting Canada ahead 3-0.
Team USA rallied for two goals over the second period's final 17:36, cutting Canada's lead to 3-2, but Toews got the eventual game-winner with an unassisted even-strength tally at 9:13 of the third. Leading 4-2, Canada surrendered the final U.S. goal to Bill Sweatt at the 13:50 mark, before Darren Helm made it 5-3 at 18:17 and then found the empty net at 19:03 for the 6-3 victory.
The Americans outshot the Canadians 35-26, but Canada goaltender Carey Price, a Montreal Canadiens first-round draft pick, was stellar in net, outdueling Los Angeles Kings prospect Jeff Zatkoff, who started his second straight game for the Americans.
The Rangers have more players on the tournament powerhouse Canadian squad than any other NHL team. Pyatt's two points led the way among the future Blueshirts on Wednesday, as he also had three shots on goal and a plus-1 rating. Defenseman Marc Staal, the Rangers' No. 1 pick in 2005, was his usual self, registering two shots as the anchor of Canada's blueline. Fellow 2005 Rangers draftee Marc-Andre Cliche saw less ice time on the fourth line.
Pyatt's big night came as no surprise to anyone who has followed his progress this season. As one of the top scorers in the Ontario Hockey League with the Saginaw Spirit, Pyatt's 45 points in 31 OHL games make him the highest-scoring Rangers prospect in all of major-junior hockey.
Canada will be back in action on Friday, facing Germany, the tournament's Cinderella team so far.
Also on Wednesday, Rangers prospect Tomas Zaborsky, a 2006 draft choice, skated for Slovakia in its 4-2 loss to the surprising German team, which is now 2-0-0 in Group A.
Playing on Slovakia's fourth line, Zaborsky managed three shots on goal in the first period -- the most of any Slovak player in a single period of the game.
Germany jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Slovaks in the game's first 8:08, but Slovakia rallied to tie the game at 2-2 on a power-play goal early in the second period. Germany's Rene Kramer scored the eventual game-winner at 3:23 of the third, and Christoph Gawlik added a power-play tally just 50 seconds later.
Slovakia outshot Germany 31-17, but like the Americans before them, the Slovaks had no answer for German goaltender Sebastian Stefaniszin, who finished with 29 saves, including three on Zaborsky in the first period, when Slovakia outshot the Germans 11-7.
In Wednesday's only other game, Switzerland defeated Belarus 4-1 in its Group B opener. Belarus had led 1-0 after the first period, but Switzerland's Juraj Simek and Fadri Lemm scored early in the second period to pace the Swiss. Belarus, which had upset Finland on Tuesday, is now 1-1-0 in Group B.