TORONTO (AP) — Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon scored, Matt Murray made 24 saves and Team North America skated circles around Finland on the way to a 4-1 victory Sunday night at the World Cup of Hockey.
Captain Connor McDavid and the group of 23-and-under Americans and Canadians put on an unbelievable show of speed and skill in their first World Cup game, making good on the pre-tournament buzz. North America made it a torturous night for Finland, which had nine players back from the bronze-medal team in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Finnish goaltender Pekka Rinne was often brilliant in stopping 39 of the 43 shots he faced but couldn’t do much about the domination going on in front of him. Valtteri Filppula scored Finland’s only goal late in the third period after the result was decided.
The usually structured Finns couldn’t keep up with North America and rarely had the puck. Rinne made several 10-bell saves to keep it from being even more of a blowout.
Much like Team Europe, a collection of players from eight European countries, North America made a great first impression after plenty of criticism about being a gimmick. North America’s blazing fast play in exhibition games made it the most intriguing part of the World Cup, and that fascination is only stronger now that it showed it can thrive when it counts.
Goals came in every possible way: Eichel’s greasy rebound at the side of the net, Gaudreau’s jumping, spinning deflection, Drouin’s toe drag, and MacKinnon’s backhand-forehand move after beating everyone else to the puck. North America’s apt goal song, “Opposite of Adults” blared on the Air Canada Centre speakers all night.
Playing his first of what should be many games at his new home arena with the Toronto Maple Leafs, No. 1 pick Auston Matthews had an assist and showed he was ready to face NHL competition. McDavid, the 2015 No. 1 pick of the Edmonton Oilers, also had an assist and several nifty moves that confounded Finnish defenders.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko had two assists by taking the shot that Gaudreau deflected for his goal and the one that MacKinnon put back for his.
North America is back on the ice Monday night against Russia, which lost to Sweden 2-1 earlier Sunday.
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