Sharks in Sochi: Canada routs Austria thanks to some California Love
Patrick Marleau set up all three goals of Jeff Carter's natural hat trick and now leads the tournament in scoring.
The final score reads 6-0 Canada but it might as well be 5-0 California with an additional goal from Shea Weber as five of Team Canada's six tallies in its rout of Team Austria came from players who ply their trade in the Golden State. San Jose Shark Patrick Marleau had the primary assist on all three goals of Los Angeles King Jeff Carter's second period natural hat trick with Carter's L.A. teammate Drew Doughty and Anaheim Duck Ryan Getzlaf contributing to the blowout with markers of their own.
It was another terrific game for Marleau as he was moved from Getzlaf's wing to Jonathan Toews' with Toews' usual left wing Patrick Sharp serving as the healthy scratch up front. The shift in linemates didn't matter as the Sharks winger jumped into the play a little under three minutes into the second period as Carter exited the penalty box, creating a 3-on-1 for the Canadians. Sidney Crosby, in one of his rare shifts away from Chris Kunitz, set up Marleau for a chance that hit the post but Carter deposited the loose change past Austrian goaltender Bernhard Starkbaum.
A little over a minute later, Marleau beat Austrian defenseman Stefan Ulmer to a loose puck below the goal line then dished it to Carter behind the net, whose successful wraparound staked Canada to a 4-0 lead. Carter would complete the hat trick to make it 5-0 later in the period as Marleau whacked away at a Shea Weber rebound before the Los Angeles forward swooped in and fired a loose puck past Starkbaum.
With four points in two games, Marleau now leads the entire Olympic tournament in scoring. Granted, the Canadians have faced fairly weak competition thus far with a more difficult test coming Sunday against Team Finland. Marleau just looks dialed in right now and I wouldn't be surprised to see him build on his scoring lead in that game, particularly if Babcock keeps the on-and-off trio of Marleau, Toews and Carter intact as they were terrific in their shifts together today.
After an uneven showing against Norway yesterday, Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was very much his usual steady self again, paired predominantly with Doughty (although he saw a few shifts alongside seventh defenseman P.K. Subban). Vlasic finished plus-two and was fourth among Canadian blueliners in ice time, behind Duncan Keith, Weber and Jay Bouwmeester.
Elsewhere, Antti Niemi backed up Kari Lehtonen in Finland's 6-1 win over Norway. It's unclear whether he'll be playing the same role for the huge showdown with Canada on Sunday; it's likely he'll watch that game from the press box but perhaps Tuukka Rask's struggles against Austria earlier in the tournament have raised concerns for the Finnish brass. Joe Pavelski and Team USA had the day off and will face Russia tomorrow at 4:30AM Pacific. Set your alarm clocks.