If hockey games were artwork, Canada’s 3-1 win over Norway on Thursday was more finger than oil painting.
In a choppy, uneven affair that lacked flow, the Canadians were in control for most of the game but failed to dominate a gritty Norwegian team featuring just one NHLer — New York’s Mats Zuccarello.
Shea Weber, Jamie Benn and Drew Doughty scored the goals for Canada — Benn notching the game-winner — while Patrice Bergeron chipped in with a pair of assists. Norway’s Patrick Thoresen scored a power play goal early in the third period to briefly cut the Canadian lead to 2-1, and goalie Lars Haugen played very well in stopping 35 of 38 shots.
For Canada, the game will probably draw scrutiny across social media platforms and from various media outlets, especially compared to the offense put up by the U.S. (7-1 win over Slovakia), Finland (8-4 over Austria) and Russia (5-2 over Slovenia). While the main mission was accomplished — open the tournament with a win — the Canadian team, loaded with NHL stars, showed little chemistry. Perhaps that’s why head coach Mike Babcock referred to his group as a “work in progress” prior to the game.
For Norway, the game could be seen as a positive on a number of fronts. It managed to avoid a blowout, which is crucial for rankings in the qualification round. Norway was outscored 19-5 in the group stage at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver — which included an 8-0 trouncing at the hands of the Canadians — so today’s result is a major improvement.
The Norwegians also showed determination and fearlessness in blocking shots, often collapsing defensively in the hopes of frustrating the Canadian shooters. On a number of occasions, it worked.
All this said, Canada was never really in danger on Thursday and carried the play for large stretches. At no point was that more evident than in the second period, when it out-shot the Norwegians 14-2 and out-scored them 2-0.
Carey Price stopped 19 of 20 shots in goal for Canada. He’ll sit next game, though, as Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo will get the start against Austria.
Notes: Doughty led all Canadian skaters with 20:41 TOI, while Benn was the low man with 8:52… Marleau led all players with five shots on goal… another ex-NHLer on the Norwegian team, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, led all players with 25:38 TOI.