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2 kids and an old goat save the day for Canada

The early lead from the United States was short-lived. Ninety seconds to be exact.

American defenceman Ryan McDonagh scored just 4:22 into Tuesday night’s game, knocking a rebound past Canadian goalie Carey Price, but only a few shifts later Matt Duchene tied the game, and 14 seconds after that Corey Perry put Canada up for good in this crucial World Cup of Hockey matchup.

The 4-2 win clinched Canada (2-0-0) a spot in the semifinals, with one preliminary game left against Team Europe on Wednesday night, while the winless U.S. (0-2-0) was eliminated.

The result prompted Stanley Cup-winning forward Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins, left off the American team because management wanted a tough, physical squad to compete against Canada, to take a shot on his Twitter account.

There was plenty to put your finger on in determining why Canada has back-to-back wins to begin this tournament and now has won 12 in a row in best-on-best contests since its 5-3 loss to the U.S. in the final game of the preliminary round at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

4th line to the rescue

In this clinical victory, Canada never allowed the U.S. to establish its forecheck. Sure, the Canadians had a wake-up call with the early McDonagh goal. They were tentative and tight.

But then the fourth line came to the rescue. Duchene scored when he lassoed a planned Marc-Edouard Vlasic bank shot off the end boards. All of sudden, Canada was dominant in all three zones.

Canada’s bottom set of forwards consists of two kids (Ryan O’Reilly and Duchene) and an old goat (Joe Thornton).

Duchene and O’Reilly, both 25, are the youngest players on the Canadian roster, while the 37-year-old Thornton is the oldest.

“I didn’t know them at all,” Thornton said, when asked how familiar he was with his linemates before the team met in Ottawa for training camp two weeks ago.

But you wouldn’t know that with the chemistry they’ve exhibited on the ice. They get on the forecheck early and often and also move the puck out of their own end with precise passes and speed.

“It’s hard to defend when you always have the puck,” Thornton said with a smile through his bushy beard.

This was especially evident late in the second period, when Thornton, Duchene and O’Reilly had the puck for an extended length of time in the U.S. zone to set up a couple of bombs from defenceman Shea Weber. Finally, U.S. defenceman Erik Johnson, whose first-period turnover led to Duchene’s second goal, flipped the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty and some relief.

Like old times

A dozen years ago, the last time the World Cup of Hockey was played, Thornton was 25, the same age as O’Reilly and Duchene. Thornton played some of his best hockey, won tournament MVP honours and led Canada to the championship.

But with all his experience, the San Jose Sharks centre didn’t feel it was necessary to offer any words of wisdom to his younger linemates for this event.

“They’re both very, very talented players,” Thornton said. “We just talk, get each other’s tendencies down. Their hockey IQ is off the charts, so as long as we talk the chemistry will be there.”

Duchene and O’Reilly played junior hockey against each other for two seasons and broke into the NHL together as teenagers with the Colorado Avalanche in 2009. O’Reilly was traded to the Buffalo Sabres prior to last season, but it’s like they never had any time apart.

Duchene especially stood out against the U.S. He admitted he was fired up after all the talk about the Americans upping their grit level in order to have better success against the Canadians, and his play caught his coach’s eye.

“Duchene just good flat out could skate tonight,” Canadian coach Mike Babcock said. “I probably should have played him more.

“He gives us good speed, and obviously he answered the bell here tonight.”

CBC | Sports News

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