Win’s a win? Canada beats Norway 3-1

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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.

No mic? No problem: Oilers fans sing American, Canadian national anthems

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There was apparently an issue with a microphone used for the national anthems prior to Game 3 between the Ducks and Oilers in Edmonton.

Canadian country music star Brett Kissel was supposed to perform the anthems, however, as he stepped up to the mic, he soon discovered that there seemed to be a malfunction.

With some quick encouragement from Kissel, fans at Rogers Place stole the show with stirring renditions of both the American and Canadian national anthems.

Here is the Star Spangled Banner:

Here is O Canada:

Sami Vatanen returns to Ducks lineup vs. Oilers

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Good news for the Anaheim Ducks, who trail the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 in their second round series.

Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen returns to the lineup Sunday for Game 3 — his first game since April 13, which was the opener of Anaheim’s first-round series with Calgary, because of an upper-body injury.

However, the Ducks will be without Kevin Bieksa, who is dealing with a lower-body injury.

Predators stifle Blues to take back series lead

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The Nashville Predators have snapped their one-game funk in these Stanley Cup playoffs, taking back the series lead over the St. Louis Blues.

For long stretches of Sunday’s contest, the Predators kept the puck away from and stifled the Blues, including a stretch of almost nine minutes at the beginning of the second period in which St. Louis failed to register a shot attempt.

The Predators’ 3-1 victory in Game 3 was eventually secured on an unbelievably dominant shift late in the third period.

Joel Edmundson‘s (costly) turnover led to a dizzying attack from Predators, who had sustained puck possession inside the St. Louis zone for about 1:10.

By the end, Edmundson and Colton Parayko had exhausted themselves as the Predators tossed the puck around with increasing ease before Roman Josi halted the madness with a slap shot to the top corner, giving Nashville a two-goal lead.

That continues an impressive trend for the Predators.

They have scored nine goals in this series, with at least one defenseman contributing directly with either a goal or an assist on eight of those goals. Nashville’s group of blueliners — including Ryan Ellis, who has been on quite a productive roll throughout these playoffs — have combined for 11 points through three games in this series.

This series resumes Tuesday in Nashville, with the Predators leading 2-1.

VIDEO: Ryan Ellis continues his incredible postseason run for Predators

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Playing in Nashville over the years it has been easy for Ryan Ellis to get overlooked, always playing in the shadow of bigger name stars on the team’s blue line.

Shea Weber (before he was traded). Roman Josi. P.K. Subban.

But Ellis has been a major part of the Predators’ blue line and he had a career-year in 2016-17, setting new personal bests in goals (16) and points (38) while matching his previous career high in assists (22).

He has continued that strong play in the postseason and is currently the team’s leading scorer after he netted his third goal of the playoffs (and eighth total point) on Sunday afternoon to give the Predators a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Blues.

You can see it in the video above.

After being held without a point in the Predators’ first playoff game, Ellis has now picked up at least one point in every playoff game since them and is now riding a six-game point streak.

The first half of Sunday’s game has been a defensive clinic by the Predators, by the way, limiting St. Louis to just 10 shots on goal through the first 34 minutes, and none through the first 14 minutes of the second period.

The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 in the second period when Cody McLeod deflected in his first goal of the playoffs to give the Predators some unexpected scoring depth. He had just five goals in 59 games during the regular season between the Predators and Colorado Avalanche.