The two teams we unanimously picked to win Group B got wins in their first games at the World Cup of Hockey, as Sweden and North America now sit atop their group.
Sweden 2, Russia 1
No “King,” no problem for Sweden, as Jacob Markstrom made 27 saves in Tre Kronor’s 2-1 win over Russia.
The teams played an even first period, as neither team was able to find the back of the net. Markstrom, who got the nod in net after Henrik Lundqvist was a late scratch with an illness, made eight saves in the game’s opening frame, and looked comfortable behind Sweden’s strong blueline.
Sweden ceded an early edge in shots to Russia, but began to carry play as the first period progressed. They carried that advantage into the second period and capitalized on it, scoring two goals in 2:11. Gabriel Landeskog opened the scoring with a slapshot off of Sergei Bobrovsky’s glove side post on the power play, and Victor Hedman doubled the Swede’s lead thanks to Carl Hagelin’s chip pass into the slot.
Sweden’s 2-0 lead would last late into the third period, when Russia began to push for their first goal and an eventual equalizer. Markstrom was 33 seconds away from a shutout when Alex Ovechkin cut the Russian deficit in half off of a seeing-eye shot from the left point.
26 seconds later, Ovechkin appeared to have tied the game, but the goal was immediately overturned on the ice. Replays were not definitive, and Sweden escaped with a 2-1 win.
Disallowed Goal Controversy of the Day
Ovechkin’s disallowed goal ensured that, once again, a disallowed goal, was a talking point on the tournament’s second day. Yesterday, Derek Stepan appeared to score the Americans’ first goal, but the officials correctly overturned the call after determining that James Van Riemsdyk had directed the puck towards the net with his chest/hand, and not his stick.
Unlike yesterday’s, Ovechkin’s was not as cut-and-dry. It was immediately disallowed on the ice, as the officials insisted Ovechkin batted the puck into the net with his glove. Ovechkin adamantly argued the puck hit his stick before going in. The replays were hardly conclusive.
To my amateur set of eyes, it looked like the puck hit Stralman’s stick before grazing Ovechkin’s and going in, but there was far from enough evidence to overturn the call, and the Swedish lead stood. It’s a tough break for Ovechkin and Russia, who now face a must-win game tomorrow against North America.
North America 4, Finland 1
Any concerns following North America’s loss to the Czechs in their final pre-tournament game were alleviated after this one. The collection of under-23 Canadians and Americans dominated the Finns from start to finish, and look like the team to beat in group B.
North America soaked up some early Finnish pressure, but took the lead just over five minutes in on the power play. Auston Matthews drove the net, and Jack Eichel buried the rebound, as North America took a 1-0 lead.
The young guns did not let up, and added three goals in the middle frame. Johnny Gaudreau pirouetted and tipped Colton Parayko’s point shot out of mid-air (and mid-spin, too) to double North America’s advantage 5:27 into the second. Exactly two minutes later, Jonathan Drouin was rewarded for his persistence, after Pekka Rinne denied his initial shot and Drouin buried the rebound to make it 3-0.
Nathan MacKinnon made it 4-0 7:10 later, on a goal eerily similar to the first: Parayko once again kept the puck in at the blueline, and fired a shot on net from the left point. Instead of a deflection, MacKinnon scored off of a juicy Rinne rebound, taking advantage of a shaky performance from the Finnish goaltender.
Valtteri Filppula got the Finns on the board with 4:07 left in regulation, as the Finnish forecheck capitalized on sloppy play in the North Americans’ own end. That 4-1 scoreline would hold as the final, as North America emerged as the other victor in Group B.
Play of the Day
My words don’t do it justice, so watch this deflection from Johnny Hockey.
Joonas Donskoi (F, Finland)
Played 18:20, third among Finnish forwards in time-on-ice and tied for second on Finland with 3 shots on goal.
Fear the Fin’s Three Stars
- Colton Parayko (D, North America): 2 assists, 3 SOG in 4-1 win over Finland.
- Jacob Markstrom (G, Sweden): 27 saves in 2-1 win over Sweden.
- Connor McDavid (F, North America): 1 assist, 3 SOG in 4-1 win over Finland.
What’s Up Next?
Europe can all but secure a berth to the semifinal round with a win over the Czech Republic, as Mikkel Boedker looks to draw in for his first tournament game at 12 PM PST tomorrow on ESPN 2. The North Americans will look to do the same against Russia at 5 PM PST.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the United States and Canada as tomorrow's second game.