Nothing is easy for this Canadian team at the world junior championships.
Jonathan Drouin redeemed himself after a bad penalty on his first shift by scoring the tying goal and Nic Petan rediscovered his scoring touch in time to get the game-winner and an empty-netter as Canada used a three-goal third period to down Slovakia 5-3 on Monday.
The win left Canada (2-0-1) two points behind the United States (3-0-0) heading into a showdown for first place in the last preliminary round game for both squads on Tuesday.
They’ll need a regulation win to overtake the defending champion Americans, who eliminated Canada in the semifinals of last year’s world juniors in Ufa, Russia
“We regrouped, we found a way,” said coach Brent Suter. “In the third, I thought we dominated.
“We got a break when they hit the post after we got the lead, but the third was maybe the best period we’ve played in the tournament so far.”
It was the best played and most rousing of the three games the team has played in Malmo, and it certainly brought the mostly Canadian crowd of 2,558 at the Isstadion to their feet as Canada bounced back from penalty trouble and 3-1 second-period deficit to win.
Zach Fucale made 19 saves for the win in his first start of the tournament and Sutter said the Halifax Mooseheads goalie will be in net again against the Americans.
And Anthony Mantha, the runaway scoring leader in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, had a goal and three assists to give him nine points in three games.
Not bad for a big winger who was not certain to make the team out of camp three weeks ago.
“I came to camp and I wanted to make my place, and once I did that, I wanted to show I could play great hockey over here and that’s what I’m doing now,” the Detroit Red Wings prospect said.
“Anthony was huge,” added Sutter.
Curtis Lazar also scored for Canada.
David Griger, with two, and Martin Reway scored for Slovakia (1-2-0), which can clinch third place with a win Tuesday over the Czech Republic.
Drouin tied the game at 14:02 of the third period after Mantha beat 16-year-old Erik Cernak behind the Slovak goal and fed it in front.
Canada was on a power play when Petan walked out from the right side and threaded a goal through traffic.
Canada had to battle back from a 3-1 second-period deficit against a Slovak side playing a tight trap and leaning on the power play with the highly skilled unit of Reway, Griger and Milan Kolena for goals.
For the third straight game Canada gave up the first goal, this time after Drouin got a minor and a misconduct for a hit to the head only 10 seconds in. Griger took Jakub Predajniansky’s shot off the end boards and scored into an open side past Fucale.
Drouin did not see the ice again until Canada’s power play at 16:49, but it was Lazar who scored on a one-timer of Mantha’s pass after extended pressure in the Slovak zone at 18:20.
The crowd howled at what they felt was Slovak diving that led to a pair of two-man advantages, both of which produced goals in the second frame.
The first saw Reway score his fourth of the tournament with a quick shot from a Kolena feed, and then Griger get his second of the game into an open side from Reway’s pass.
Canada got one back before the third period as Mantha camped on the doorstep and banged in an Aaron Ekblad rebound at 17:00.
Notes: Forward Charles Hudon was helped off with what looked like a shoulder problem 13 seconds into the third period after a hit into the end boards, but returned later in the period. . . Canada will have defenceman Griffin Reinhart back against the Americans after serving the last of his four-game suspension incurred at last year’s world juniors.