Two late third period goals 41 seconds apart lifted Team USA to a 4-2 victory over Team Canada in a 2016 World Junior Championship preliminary round game Saturday at Helsinki Ice Hall in Helsinki, Finland.
Louis Belpedio‘s wrist shot from the point was deflected by Canadian defender Joe Hicketts past Mason McDonald to give USA a 3-2 lead at 16:42 of the third period.
An insurance goal was added by Auston Matthews at 17:23 of the third period. Zach Werenski‘s shot from the point slipped behind McDonald, where Matthews tapped the puck into the net.
American goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, a Carolina Hurricanes prospect, made 25 saves in the win.
This was the 45th meeting between Canada and USA in the WJC.
The loss is Canada’s first opening game loss in the tournament since 1998.
After a scoreless first period, Canada’s Matt Barzal struck first at 5:06 of the second period. Julien Gauthier blocked a shot in the Canadian zone, which led to a two-on-one with Rourke Chartier. Nedeljkovic made the initial save on Chartier, but Barzal would score on a broken play.
USA responded with a goal from Colin White at 16:33 of the second period. Sonny Milano‘s shot off the face-off hit the backboards, where White put home the rebound.
A pair of questionable calls led to a 2-2 tie in the third period.
John Quenneville was called for goalie interference at 6:54 in which it appeared Nedeljkovic instigated the contact. That led to a Werenski power-play goal through traffic at 7:22.
Then at 9:35, Werenski was sent to the penalty for slashing after the play was whistled dead due to offside. Dylan Strome capitalized on the poor call and scored on the power play at 10:45.
USA was without forward Alex DeBrincat for most of the game after he received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for spearing Travis Konecny at 17:20 of the first period. DeBrincat leads the Ontario Hockey League in goals with 33 in 30 games for the Erie Otters.
McDonald was given the start for the Canadians since MacKenzie Blackwood has a two-game suspension. McDonald, a Calgary Flames prospect, turned away 21 shots in the loss.
Next Game: Canada’s next opponent is Denmark at 1 p.m. EST Monday, and USA will take on Sweden at 9 a.m. EST Monday.
Follow Colin Fitts on Twitter, @FittsTHW.