Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello was all over the ice Thursday, putting forth a passionate effort as Norway battled heavily-favored Canada for every inch of the ice, but in the end Zuccarello and his teammates fell short of a major upset, losing to Team Canada, 3-1, in both team's opening game in the preliminary round of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Zuccarello did not find his way on to the scoresheet Thursday, but he played a whopping 23 minutes 57 seconds, far and away the most by any forward for either team, and just 90 seconds fewer than Norway captain Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, who is a defenseman. Zuccarello's ice time was more than eight minutes higher than those of Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby, Canada's leaders among forwards.
Of course Canada is a much deeper team than Norway, and Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock opted to roll all four of his potentially-explosive lines, limiting the ice time of even his absolute best players. Norway did not have that luxury considering that Zuccarello is the only NHL player on the Norwegian roster. So the popular Rangers forward played in all game situations — even strength, at the point on the power play, and on the top penalty killing unit. Zuccarello finished with one shot on goal and an Even plus/minus rating.
Another Rangers forward, Rick Nash, took part in this game, as well, except the 2010 Gold Medalist was on the winning side. Nash recorded two shots on goal over 12:32 of ice time, playing on a pair of line combinations, though most often with Toews and Patrick Sharp.
Gritty Norway played an inspired game, which was scoreless after one period of play. However Canada dominated the second period, though only securing a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes. Norway's Patrick Thoresen scored just 22 seconds into the third period following a Carey Price giveaway to raise hopes of an upset, but Canada's Drew Doughty restored order 1:25 later with a goal that lifted the Canadians back to a two-goal advantage.
Both Nash and Zuccarello will see action again on Friday as Canada faces off with Austria and Norway skates against Finland.