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Team Europe upsets Americans in World Cup opener

Niederreiter tallies assist in surprise win over United States

by Evan Sporer / Special to

TORONTO - As Nino Niederreiter stood above the right circle in his defensive zone, and surveyed his surroundings, Patrick Kane darted in from the opposite point.

Kane took a shoot that was stopped by Jaroslav Halak, and seconds later, again circled the offensive zone with the puck on his stick.

This time, Kane had the puck poked off his stick by Tobias Rieder, pushing the play into open pastures, as Leon Draisaitl, and Niederreiter took off.

A 2-on-0 and give-and-go later, and Niederreiter had the primary assist on a Draisaitl goal that doubled Team Europe's lead to 2-0.

"It was a good play by [Tobias Rieder] to chip it up the wall, and then it was a nice play by Nino," Draisaitl said.

In a game many pegged the United States as the favorite, Team Europe defeated the Americans 3-0 in the opening game of the 2016 World Cup.

Niederreiter, who played 10 shifts and logged 6:55 of ice time for Team Europe, made the most of his usage. In addition to the assist, his line with Draisaitl and Rieder held its own, a virtual wash possession-wise, but coming up with a goal in a key moment to make it 2-0.

"Within the room, we know what we're capable of," Draisaitl said. "From the outside, we got stumped up as the underdog here. We all understand that, but at the same time, we have some really good players on our team as well. A lot of experience. A big win for us."

It puts Europe atop Group A for the moment, and the United States in a difficult spot, next facing tournament-favorite Canada.

Starting 0-2 would likely mean not advancing to the quarterfinal round.

"We don't really have much of a choice now," Zach Parise said. "I would expect us to respond with a really good game. Again, we've talked about it earlier, you want to get better each game as this tournament goes on, so the next one is going to be a real test for us. We have to continue to get better, and we have to have a really good effort next game."

Key Moment: It appeared the United States had cut a 2-0 deficit in half late in the second period on the power play before having a goal disallowed.

On its first man-advantage of the game, Ryan Suter took a pass at the point, delayed a tick, and took a shot that made it through to Halak.

The rebound popped up, hit the chest of James van Riemsdyk, then the helmet of Derek Stepan, and then the back of the net.

Upon further review, it was ruled van Riemsdyk had intentionally, illegally directed the puck toward the goal, so, despite the fact the puck went on to hit Stepan, the goal was taken off the board.

"I didn't think I necessarily tried to direct it toward the net deliberately," van Riemsdyk said. "It's kind of one of those gray areas. On the ice they called it a goal, so I don't know how they could have possibly seen enough to overturn it, but that's just how the game goes sometimes."

Via the NHL situation room: The fact that the puck deflected off of Derek Stepan has no bearing on the ruling. According to Rule 67.6 "A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who bats or directs the puck and it is deflected into the net off any player, goalkeeper or official." No goal Team USA. 

What could have been a one-goal game entering the third became a 3-0 Europe lead when 4:22 after the disallowed goal Pierre-Edouard Bellemare tipped home a Jane Hansen shot.

"We had a couple of good shifts right after that though," van Riemsdyk said. "Obviously it didn't go our way, and we'll have to be ready to go for Tuesday."

Suter logged 22:21, second-most among American skaters behind Matt Niskanen.

The Skinny: The United States was victimized a number of times by odd-man rushes. Team Europe's first goal came when Marian Gaborik finished off a 2-on-1 with Frans Nielsen. Niederreiter and Draisaitl converted a 2-on-0 to make it 2-0. On a few other occasions Jonathan Quick bailed out his teammates with big saves.

"Give them credit: They played very structured, and more patient, and they were able to capitalize on their chances," van Riemsdyk said. "That's the story of the game today."

While patience may have been a virtue for Team Europe, the United States, in addition to allowing those odd-man rushes early on, also failed to truly generate many quality scoring-chances.

"We're going to be able to chip out some of the glorious odd-man rushes we gave them early on for a couple of freebies," head coach John Tortorella said. "We'll get those chipped out, but the part of the game that bothers me most is creating some scoring chances, better quality scoring chances."

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