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Canada defeats Russia in opening game of World Juniors

The Canadian Press

12/27/2010 12:34:37 AM

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The multitude of red-and-white clad fans who turned out for Canada's opening game at the world junior hockey championship got what they came for -- a gritty victory over talented Russia.

Ryan Johansen and Brayden Schenn broke open a tie game with power-play goals early in the third period and Curtis Hamilton added a tally with 27 seconds left to play as Canada downed Russia 6-3 on Sunday before 18,690 at HSBC arena.

"Until the third period, we didn't play our game, but then we played it very well," said Canadian captain Ryan Ellis. "We started to chip pucks in and hit more guys.

"We got physical, like we have to do."

Special teams were at the forefront as Canada went 3-for-5 with the man advantage. What had coach Dave Cameron smiling was not so much holding Russia to 1-for-3, but that his team took only three minor penalties despite laying on the body liberally.

"I thought our guys did a good job of staying within the boundaries," he said. "That was a big part of the (only) three penalties we took."

Marcus Foligno, a long-shot to make the team, kept his hand hot with Canada's first goal while defencemen Ellis and Erik Gudbranson scored for a team that got the balanced scoring it will need in the absence of any big-name offensive stars.

Maxim Kitsyn, Nikita Dvurechenski and Danil Sobchenko had goals for Russia, whose star winger Vladimir Tarasenko made some dazzling plays, but was held to one assist.

Canada outshot Russia 42-27.

"It was a good experience for us," said Russian coach Valeri Bragin. "They tried their best and weren't playing (individually). The three power-play goals for Canada were key."

Canada also got a boost from what turned out to be a home rink atmosphere as thousands of fans poured over the border from Southern Ontario to blanket the seats in Canadian colours.

They cheered every Canadian hit, shot and goal and groaned as the Russians kept a scrambly game close for two periods. As the third period wound down, they took a cue from Montreal fans to sing "Ole, Ole" and then sang "O Canada."

"A big part of coaching is generating emotion and it certainly helps when you have that in the building and they're all on your side," said Cameron.

Drawn in a tough group, their opener was a far cry from a year ago in Saskatoon, when Canada blitzed Latvia 16-0 en route to a 4-0 preliminary-round record in which they outscored their opponents 32-6.

Canada plays the Czech Republic on Tuesday, Norway on Wednesday and ends the preliminary round Friday against a solid team from Sweden, which opened with a 7-1 win over Norway in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Neither team looked polished in a game in which players struggled to control a bouncing puck, leading to errant passes and icings.

"It was just jitters," said Ellis. "For a lot of guys it's their first time here.

"It's a matter of getting used to the pace. It just took a period or two to get into it."

Laying on the body a little too enthusiastically was costly for Canada early on. Two players went for the same Russian and left space open for Yuri Urychev to move in from the left point and see his shot deflected by Kitsyn past Olivier Roy 3:57 into the game.

A big penalty kill led by Casey Cizikas, who trapped the puck in the Russian zone for more than 15 seconds, looked to wake Canada up and, at 17:55, Foligno was at the side of the net to lift in Louis Leblanc's rebound on a power play to tie it.

Ellis scored when his point shot went just wide, came off the end boards, bounced off goalie Igor Bobkov's skate and in at 10:35 into the second. Dvurechenski got it back at 11:51 when his shot on a rush slipped between Roy's pads.

"The boards are hard," said Ellis, "I was hoping to bank it so it would go to one of our guys, but I got a lucky bounce and it went in."

Gudbranson scored on a point blast at 15:15, but with Kassian off for slashing, Russia tied it again on a power play at 16:52 when Sobchenko was in front to bang in Urychev's point shot.

Johansen was at the net to bang in a rebound 3:36 into the final period to break a 3-3 tie and Schenn scored on a feed from Zack Kassian at 6:16. Schenn won a faceoff to Hamiton for the final goal.

In the 10-team tournament's opening game, Switzerland took the early lead and held on for a 4-3 victory over Germany.

The last time Canada failed to win its opening game of the world junior was a 0-0 tie with Slovakia in 1999 in Brandon, Man., and the last time they lost was a 3-2 decision to Finland in Helsinki in 1998.

Reports say Canadians purchased 63 per cent of the 310,000 tickets sold so far for the tournament.

Notes: In 35 meetings all-time, Canada is 15-17-2 against Russian teams. ... Roy is the first player from the Acadie-Bathurst Titan to play for Canada at the world junior.