Team Canada hit their first real test of mettle, and although they fought back from adversity on 4 separate occasions, they ended up falling in a shootout by a score of 5-4. It was the first upset of the tournament so far, as the results to date had been as expected.
Canada fell behind despite dominating the first period, although they evened it up before the period was over with a power play goal from Sam Reinhart. The Czechs scored the lone goal of the second, just a second after a penalty to Connor McDavid had expired.
It was a crazy third period that saw 5 goals scored, beginning with Jonathan Drouin evening the score at 2 just 24 seconds into the third on another power play. After McDavid’s second hooking penalty of the game nullified a Canadian power play and created a faceoff in their own end, Canada fell behind again. Tomecek won the draw forward and then broke out of the clutches of Bo Horvat and his spin-around shot fooled everyone and got through Jake Paterson’s legs. After a bad too many men on the ice penalty put Canada shorthanded again, Ottawa Senators draft pick Curtis Lazar went to work and lugged the puck into the Czech zone. Lazar criss-crossed with Scott Laughton, who drove the net with the puck. He was stopped, but the rebound went right to Aaron Ekblad who drilled it home for the shorthanded goal. But again, before that penalty had expired, another faceoff resulted in another go-ahead goal as Jakub Vrana wired one from just inside the circle to make it 4-3. Just 16 seconds later, Anthony Mantha (who had been whistled for the too many men penalty) dropped the puck for Charles Hudon, who scored low stick side to tie the game with 7 minutes left.
Overtime was necessary, and Adam Pelech made the biggest play of the extra frame hustling back to strip a Czech forward on a breakaway, and there was no scoring in the 5 minute overtime, bringing about a shootout. After Drouin scored on the first shot and Paterson stopped Kase, it looked good for Canada to get two of the three possible points. However, Nic Petan and McDavid both had poor efforts and missed while Paterson coudn’t stop Pastrnak and then Simon made the Forsberg move to win the game and send Canadian fans into a fury.
This means (barring another upset of some sort) that Canada must beat the US in regulation on New Year’s Eve if they want to win the pool outright and get the easier quarterfinal.
- McDavid didn’t see action after his second hooking penalty until the shootout attempt. Questions will no doubt be raised as to whether having a player who hadn’t touched the ice, let alone the puck, for over 20 minutes of game action was the wisest choice for a shooter. He looked cold coming down the ice and as a 16 year old might not have been completely focused after the benching.
- Paterson didn’t look good, and despite Brent Sutter’s tendency to run with one goalie in this tournament, I would be surprised if Zach Fucale is not between the pipes on Monday.
Canada faces Slovakia on Monday, before the anticipated showdown with the US. If Canada looks past the Slovaks (which I don’t think Sutter will let them do), then that game might be more desperate for Canada than they would have thought, because another loss or losing a point could bring a quarterfinal showdown with the powerful Swedes into the equation.
Team Canada still has some work to do. This game magnified the concerns that there wasn’t enough natural goal-scoring ability on this team as compared to other teams in the tournament, and that showed in the first period where most Canadian teams of the past would have put that game out of reach in the first 20 minutes.