Canada opened the 2017 World Juniors with a 5-3 win over archrivals Russia in a game dominated by defence and caution–and three power-play goals by the hosts
Captain Dylan Strome had two goals while Matt Barzal had a goal and two assists. Tyson Jost was a force in the first period for Canada as well.
Ilya Samsonov was the busier of the two goalies. He faced 37 shots, many good scoring chances, while Carter Hart stopped 14 of 17 shots for Canada.
“He’s a big goalie who moves well,” Strome said of Samsonov, “so for us to get five by him today says a lot about us. We’re shooting the puck and going to the net hard.”
In the end, Canada’s ability to pressure the Russian defence and force turnovers proved the difference. The score was close, but Canada had the greater puck possession simply by virtue of tenacity.
“We knew coming in it was going to be an intense game,” Barzal said. “Emotions were high, but we had a good start to the game and built off that. We were never too high or too low.”
“It was a great game,” said Russian forward Denis Guryanov, a 2015 Dallas Stars draft choice. “Both teams played with speed. We played a full 60 minutes, but there were times Canada was a bit more fortunate than we were.”
Canada got just the start it wanted thanks to great vision from Philippe Myers and clever positioning from Jost. Jost managed to get in behind the Russian defence in the slot while Myers had the puck along the left-wing boards. He found Jost with a perfect pass, and Jost made a nice deke from in close, roofing a backhand over Samsonov at 3:11 for the early lead.
But the Russians tied the score midway through on a sneaky shot from Mikhail Sergachyov from a long way out. Hart was screened, and the wrist shot drifted over his shoulder at 9:47 to make it a 1-1- game.
Jost was the best player on either side in the first, forechecking effectively, creating chances, and jumping on loose pucks.
The game settled into a stalemate in the second, neither side wanting to make an error, neither side willing to be too creative if it meant risking a turnover. Canada went ahead at 13:15 on a power play when Barzal fired a cross-ice pass to Strome, who ripped a one-timer past a lunging Samsonov.
Then, at 17:08, Nicolas Roy stripped Denis Alexeyev of the puck inside the Russian blue line and in one motion wired a shot to the far side, past a surprised Samsonov.
The hosts added to their lead early in the third on another power play. This time Strome returned the favour, getting the puck in front where Barzal, off balance, got enough of a shot off to beat Samsonov at 3:03.
Kirill Kaprizov brought the Russians to within two goals two minutes later on a Russian man advantage, his shot finding the five hole between Hart’s pads at 5:12.
Strome added another goal with the extra man at 9:06 when a Barzal shot came off the crossbar right to the captain, who sniped it in for a 5-2 lead.
A minute and a half later, another deadly wrist shot beat Hart to the far side, this one courtesy of Yegor Rykov.
Both teams are right back at it tomorrow. Russia plays Latvia in the early game while Canada takes on Slovakia in the late game.
“Slovakia won bronze two years ago,” Strome noted. “They have some good players, including one guy from Erie who’s a huge defenceman in his fourth World Juniors [Erik Cernak], so they’re a good team.”