TSN had to love this game coming in. It was a New Year's Eve game against Canada's archrivals. It would feature the top two picks of the upcoming draft: Connor McDavid vs. Jack Eichel. The only issue had to be the fact that the game started at 4 PM, which meant that a lot of Canadians wouldn't be home from work yet.
The first period featured two things: speed and physicality. The rough stuff started before the puck was even dropped. Throughout the period, there was lots of chirping and lots of hitting. Max Domi seemed to be on the verge of going Hulk on Jack Eichel every time they were on the ice together. From a hockey perspective, there was lots of end-to-end action. Both teams had quality scoring chances. Some were due to miscues, and some were due to great saves by either goalie.
For Senators fans, Nick Paul had a couple of great looks, and Curtis Lazar had an early scary moment when he got hit in the mouth by Jake Virtanen's stick. Thankfully, Lazar smiled it off, because he can't help but smile. The period ended 0-0, with Team Canada up 17-13 in the shot department, and the US on a powerplay.
The second period saw the scoring open. I was skeptical that Domi should still be given opportunities, but he proved me wrong by sneaking into the zone, toe-dragging for a good scoring chance, then getting up off the ice to get the pass from Sam Reinhart on the rebound. Domi and Reinhart each have points in each of Team Canada's games thus far. The goal opened up a flood of references to his father, Tie Domi, on Twitter. But seriously, how long until he passes his dad's mark of 104 career NHL regular season goals?
Josh Morrissey doubled Canada's lead on the powerplay with a sweet one-timer. It upped Canada's powerplay to 6/11 so far in the tournament. The two-goal lead was important though, as the US would get one back on a powerplay of their own. Sonny Milano would receive a pass down low from Jack Eichel, but rather than shooting as I expected him to do, he threw it back in front, where it missed the entire scrum in front and fell to Anthony DeAngelo. With goalie Eric Comrie already committed to the other side, DeAngelo made no mistake.
Once again Canada outshot the US, 12-8 in the second. Once again, both goalies looked sharp; neither could be blamed for any of their goals against. The period would end on a delayed call against the States, which would send Canada to a full two-minute powerplay to start the third.
The third period started furiously. After a second period that seemed to have calmed down a bit, the third period was very fast, full of end-to-end rushes. The speed of both teams was clearly on display. Halfway through the period, Connor McDavid threw the puck on net, where it got caught on Thatcher Demko's shoulder, bounced off Lazar's arm, and entered the net. After a very lengthy review, the goal was awarded.
With 2:34 left in the period, Dylan Larkin was left all alone in front of the net, and made no mistake when he got the puck on his stick. With not much time left, it was a one-goal game. An offensive zone face-off shortly afterward allowed for the Americans to call a timeout and pull their goalie with two full minutes to play. Comrie stood tall on several great chances, until finally Reinhart iced the game by forcing a turnover in the American zone with their goalie pulled.
At least, it appeared the game had been iced. It took 12 seconds for Larkin to walk in, and get a nearly-undefended shot which beat Comrie high. With 40 seconds left, the Americans were back within a goal again.
Canada Hero: Max Domi
The guy was on fire. It came out as rage in the first period, and came out as incredible scoring talent in the rest of the game.
Canada Hero: Sam Reinhart
He also just looked great all game. He thoroughly deserved the empty-net goal he got, and the heads-up play for Domi's empty-netter was even more impressive. The Sabres have to be really happy about what they have in this guy. (He was dad's pick for best Canadian player of the game.)
Honourable Mention: Eric Comrie
Coach Groulx made the unpopular but correct decision to play Comrie over Zach Fucale, and he proved why, standing tall all game.
Honourable Mention: Darnell Nurse
He was a defensive stalwart and seemed to know the perfect time to jump into the rush.
This game was really important for the Canadians, because it means regardless of other results, the team would face Denmark or Switzerland in the quarter-finals. That's gotta feel better than the possibility of facing Russia.