SOCHI, Russia — The defending gold medalists in men’s hockey didn’t dominate Norway in their opening game of the Sochi Olympics on Thursday night. But Team Canada didn’t panic either, and that’s a more telling mark of a champion.
In a tighter game than many expected, Canada defeated the Norwegians 3-1, as the tournament favorites survived a physical battle and the clutch goaltending of Lars Haugen. Shea Weber, Jamie Benn and, most importantly, Drew Doughty solved him.
Norway played the Canadians tightly through the first period, which was scoreless.
Then, 6:20 into the second period, Weber loaded the cannon. Defenseman Duncan Keith worked the puck up the boards to the Nashville Predators defenseman. His blast rocketed off Haugen's shoulder for the 1-0 lead.
John Tavares helped set up Canada’s second goal in every way possible. Some slight interference at center ice sprung an odd-man rush the other way. Patrice Bergeron entered the zone on the right wing, with both Tavares and Benn driving to the net. Tavares attracted the attention of two Norwegian defenders, and the pass slipped to Benn who sniped it home for the 2-0 lead.
The Canadians led Norway 14-2 in shots during the second, locating their swagger and their offense.
Norway cut the Canadian lead to 2-1 early in the third on a Carey Price miscue. With Keith in the box for holding, Mats Zuccarello rifled the puck into the Canadian zone, where Price attempted to play it behind his own cage. He flubbed the puck and miscommunicated with his defense, allowing Mathis Olimb to fire the puck off Patrick Thoresen and behind Price.
But Doughty was quick to get it back.
[Photos: Remaining USA gold medal hopefuls]
The Los Angeles Kings defenseman deked Norway’s Per-Age Skroder, cut in on the Norway net and flew a backhand shot over Haugen’s shoulder to regain the two-goal lead just 1:24 after Norway’s goal.
The rest of the period saw Canada get the better of play and leave with a win with Austria next on Friday. Roberto Luongo gets the start there, after Price made 19 saves.
It wasn’t dominating. It wasn’t pretty. But it was what Canada does in the Olympic tournament: a victory.
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