Canada's top line dominates Germans

Canada's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (center L) celebrates his goal with team mates Dougie Hamilton (L), Jonathan Huberdeau (front), Scott Harrington (2nd R), and J.C. Lipon (R) against Germany in the first period of their preliminary round game during the 2013 IIHF U20 World Junior Hockey Championship in Ufa, Dec. 26, 2012.

Credits: EUTERS/Mark Blinch


UFA, RUSSIA - In another time, in what would have been close to about halfway around the world, Mark Scheifele and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would probably have been playing against each other Wednesday.

Instead, the pair were united on Team Canada's top line - along with Jonathan Huberdeau - and the trio produced nine points in Canada's 9-3 victory over Germany in their opening game of the world junior championship.

One of the good things about the NHL lockout is it has afforded Nugent-Hopkins and Scheifele another shot at a gold medal and, yes it was "just" the Germans, but the pair got Canada's offence off to a good start.

According to the obliterated NHL schedule, Scheifele, who would have been almost a lock to make the Winnipeg Jets this season, and would have been visiting Nugent-Hopkins and his Edmonton Oilers for a Boxing Day matchup.

Instead, they were matched up with Huberdeau, taken third overall behind Nugent-Hopkins by the Florida Panthers in the 2011 NHL draft (the Jets took Scheifele seventh overall).

Scoring goals was a bit of a concern for Team Canada heading into the tournament and RNH - with a year in the NHL under his belt and finalist for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year on his resume - was expected to dominate.

He did not disappoint.

Nugent-Hopkins had five points - a goal and four assists - and Scheifele had a pair of goals to help Canada get off to a decent start against the overmatched Germans.

Canada still has a lot of work to do in terms of its play in its own zone - they looked befuddled more than once against a German team that's not overly quick - and there were some atrocious turnovers.

But there's another game against the Slovaks Friday to work on those errors before they face the USA and Russia to wrap up the opening round.

The top line combined for an important goal with just a couple of seconds left in the second period. It came after a couple of mistakes by Canada on defence, allowing Leonhard Pfoderl to take a pass and go to the net to make it 6-2 at 16:22 and a brutal turnover by Mark McNeill (a blind backhand pass) that sent Nickolas Latta in to score less than two minutes later.

Canada's Lockout Line scored off the rush with those two seconds left with Scheifele finishing off a crisp three-way passing play which saw Huberdeau feed RNH just over the German blue line and then Nugent-Hopkins finding Sheifele's tape as he went to the far post.

In Canada's end, goaltender Malcolm Subban got off to a decent start, too, making a couple of good saves, including a good pad save on Dennis Reimer when it was 2-0 for Canada. He didn't have much of a shot on a power-play goal by Tobias Rieder, who had the open side for a one-timer to make it 2-1. Both the Pfoderl and Latta goals were clean-cut chances after mistakes in front of him.

He made a big save on Frederik Tiffels early in the third after a lost faceoff to his left (faceoffs are another area Canada needs to clean up). He was also sharp with seven minutes to go moving to his left to stop Rieder.

Another positive was some offence from farther down the lineup. Jonathan Drouin, the 17-year-old from the Halifax Mooseheads whose been charging up the draft chart, had a goal and a stylish backhand setup from behind the net to Ryan Strome.

In all, eight different players scored for Canada which made for an encouraging start.

There's no overlooking the ragged play in their own zone at times, but there's time to buff that up.

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