Opening day of the 2015 IIHF World Championship was highlighted by key match ups in each of the host cities. In front of a capacity crowd at CZE Arena in Ostrava, USA defeated Finland, 5-1, with Norway losing 6-2 to the defending champions, Russia.
In Prague, Canada defeated Latvia, 6-1, before Czech Republic erased a two goal deficit in front of a sellout crowd and took a 5-4 lead with three minutes left in regulation. Unfortunately for the hometown fans, Sweden scored to tie the game two minutes later and eventually won in a shootout, but if you're a hockey fan…thrilling to watch.
Here's what you need to know:
- USA captain Matt Hendricks is currently tied for the tournament scoring lead with two goals and an assist.
- Recent USA additions Anders Lee and Brock Nelson arrived in Ostrava at 2 p.m. for a 4:15 p.m. game. Nelson finished the game with two assists, including a beautiful drop pass to Steve Moses who roofed a backhander, short side, past Pekka Rinne to open the scoring late in the first period.
- Moses played the past three season with Jokerit in Helsinki and has many friends and teammates on the Finnish National Team.
- The USA-FIN final score of 5-1 is more than a little deceiving in terms of how this game played out. Finland dominated the first period and used two power play opportunities to pour on the offensive pressure. US goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was up for the challenge as was the relentless forecheck on the penalty kill that got sticks in lanes, blocked shots and forced turnovers. A late goal in the first, plus a more aggressive offensive attack to start the second period turned the game around for the Americans.
- Jason Spezza is tied with Hendricks for the tournament scoring lead with two goals and an assist of his own.
- Nathan MacKinnon is right behind them with a goal and two assists. He's been auditioning at wing with Sidney Crosby and Spezza and did enough today to effectively fill that position.
- Crosby scored the final goal of the game on a penalty shot with :23 left in regulation after being hooked on a breakaway.
- Despite their 6-2 win over Norway, the Russians were not happy with their play and felt they were far too sloppy, especially in their own end. At practice tomorrow, they want to focus on their defensive game and be harder to play against. Look for them to throw their weight around a little bit more in their next game on Monday against Slovenia.
- Patrick Thoresen scored both goals for Norway.
- Special teams played a big role in the CZE-SWE game with both teams scoring twice with the man advantage, including Sweden's game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation.
- Joel Lundquist, Henrik's twin brother, opened the scoring for Sweden.
- The Swedes like to swarm around the ice and have you turning every which way trying to follow the puck. They were incredibly effective with that for the first two periods and then let up on the gas a bit in the third, which allowed the Czechs to get back into the game and take the lead. Consistency will be emphasized during their practice tomorrow.
There are six games on the docket for Saturday. In Prague, Switzerland and Austria play at 6:15 a.m. ET, followed by France and Germany at 10:15 a.m. ET and then Latvia and Czech Republic at 2:15 p.m. ET.
In Ostrava, Andrej Meszaros and Slovakia will play Denmark at 6:15 a.m. ET followed by Belarus and Slovenia at 10:15 a.m. and then Norway and USA, which will be streamed live on NBC Sports Extra and tape-delayed on NBCSN at 11 p.m. ET.