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World Cup Roundup Day 3: Group A nearly set, Group B in flux

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Europe took care of business, while Group B got way more interesting.

World Cup Of Hockey 2016 - Team Russia v Team North America Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Europe 3, Czech Republic 2 (OT)

Europe won the World Cup of Hockey’s first overtime game, as Leon Draisatl buried the game-winning goal and, most likely, the Czech Republic’s tournament hopes.

The teams played dead even in the first period, as each team attempted 12 shots. Petr Mrazek saw more action than Jaroslav Halak, though, and stopped all eight first period shots he faced.

Zdeno Charo broke the gridlock near the halfway point of the game, converting a bad angle shot from the half wall as Mrazek scrambled in the crease. Europe controlled play in the second, but did not end up controlling the scoreboard. 3:23 later, Jakub Voracek tied the game for the Czechs, and the teams entered the third period tied at 1.

Minutes after Mrazek robbed Roman Josi on a 5-on-3 with a fantastic glove save, Europe regained the lead thanks to Mats Zuccarello’s end-to-end effort 2:17 into the period. Zuccarello capped off the controlled entry with a glove side shot that knuckled past Mrazek, and that the Czech goaltender should have stopped.

But once again, the Czechs responded. Martin Hanzal tied the game on the power play 6:14 later, corralling a Joe Lewis Arena-esque rebound off of the Air Canada Centre end-boards and firing it past Halak to even the score at 2.

That scoreline held to the end of regulation, meaning we got our first glimpse of 3-on-3 overtime in the tournament. The Czechs actually outshot Europe in the extra frame, but couldn’t beat Jaroslav Halak. Moments after Halak denied the Czechs’ best overtime opportunity, Mats Zuccarello fired a stretch pass to Leon Draisatl in alone in the Czech zone, and Draisatl’s blocker side snipe beat Mrazek, and gave Europe their second win of the tournament.

Depending on the result of tomorrow’s United States/Canada game, Europe is all but assured a spot in the semifinal round, and can win Group A with a win over Canada on Wednesday.

Russia 4, North America 3

Russia scored four goals on four consecutive shots in the second period, while Sergei Bobrovsky was on the case and the Russians held off North America, 4-3.

Auston Matthews opened the scoring in front of his soon-to-be home fans in Toronto 5:14 into the game. Connor McDavid muscled past Pavel Datsyuk along the boards, and the 2015 top pick set up the 2016 top pick with a beautiful 2-on-1 feed.

In the second period, Matt Murray, who started consecutive nights for Todd McLellan’s club (where have I heard that before), allowed four consecutive goals on four consecutive shots in a disastrous six-minute stretch. Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov scored just 50 seconds apart to give Russia a 2-1 lead, while Evgeny Kuznetsov and Vladimir Tarasenko scored goals 2:06 apart to double Russia’s lead.

McLellan pulled Murray for John Gibson, who steadied the North American defense. The young guns responded well, as Morgan Rielly cut the Russian lead to two goals with 2:04 left in the second.

North America dominated the final frame, as Russia was content to sit on their lead. It nearly cost them, as Russia was out-attempted 35-10 and outshot 19-4 in the third period. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins cut the lead in half with a power play tally 3:01 into the final period, and North America looked primed to tie the game.

They would have if not for the play of Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 18 of his 43 saves in the third period. He did have some luck on his side, too, most notably in the final minute when Shayne Gostisbehere rifled one off of the left post.

But Bobrovsky stood tall when he needed to, as Russia stays alive. A lot will depend on the results of tomorrow’s Finland/Sweden game, but North America will at least need more points than Russia in the final group game in order to advance to the semifinals.

Does North America’s loss mean that teams should not build around skill, speed, and youth?

No.

John Tortorella Achievement in Insane Coaching Decisions Award

The United States didn’t play today, but John Tortorella still makes the roundup!

Needing wins in their next two games and some help from other results, John Tortorella’s team is facing a lot of pressure. So how is John Tortorella set to respond?

In just about the most John Tortorella way possible!

Justin Abdelkader, yes that Justin Abdelkader, took line rushes with Patrick Kane and Derek Stepan at practice today, moving him into a top six role. He may not want us to read into it, but his insistence he wants Abdelakder to have a bigger role is just further confirmation that this coaching staff (and by extension, USA Hockey) just doesn’t get it.

Honorable mention goes to Todd McLellan for starting Matt Murray on the second night of a back-to-back, something Murray did just once this past season in the NHL in his short time in Pittsburgh. Hindsight is 20-20, of course, and Bobrovsky also played the second night of a back-to-back. But, given Murray’s inexperience relative to Bobrovsky and the nature of a tournament set during what is essentially the NHL preseason, McLellan should have known better.

Sharks Watch

Mikkel Boedker (F, Europe)

Scratched for the second consecutive game in Europe’s 3-2 OT win over the Czech Republic.

Fear the Fin’s Three Stars

  1. Sergei Bobrovsky (G, Russia): 43 saves (.935 SV% .95 SV% at even strength) in 4-3 win over North America
  2. Mats Zuccarello (F, Europe): 2 points (1 G, 1 A) in 3-2 OT win over the Czech Republic.
  3. Leon Draisaitl (F, Europe): GWG in 3-2 OT win over the Czech Republic; leading goal-scorer at the World Cup of Hockey

What’s Up Next?

Finland can put itself right back in the mix in Group B with a win over Sweden tomorrow at 12 PM PST on ESPN, while it’s do-or-die for Joe Pavelski and the United States against Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Canada tomorrow night at 5 PM PST ON ESPN.