The first game of the Spengler Cup tournament in Davos, Switzerland started off with a ton of drama, with Adler Mannheim surrendering a 3-0 lead to HC Lugano to lose 6-3 to the Swiss-based club.
Mannheim wouldn’t even need five minutes to score the first goal of the tournament. Former Washington Capitals defenseman Steve Eminger would get things started with a hard slap shot, with the puck getting stopped in the crease by Elvis Merzlikins. The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect would then get across and make a tough glove save on former Team Canada star Glen Metropolit but couldn’t do it again as Brent Raedeke was there to poke in the puck past the goal line.
With just about seven minutes remaining in the opening period, Mannheim would find themselves back on the scoreboard. This time, Ryan MacMurchy, the top scoring skater on the Mannheim roster, would steal the puck after a terrible giveaway by former Detroit Red Wings prospect Damien Brunner resulted in a good rush the other way. MacMurchy made absolutely no mistake with the quick wrist shot, blasting it over Merzlikins and in for the 2-0 goal.
The real story of the game had to be German netminder Dennis Endras, who had three breakaway saves alone in the opening period of the game. The 30-year-old is back for his second Spengler Cup performance after grabbing the top goaltender award back at the 2012 tournament, an event Mannheim really struggled in. He’d make a total of ten saves in the first period, making him the busier goalie after 20 minutes of perfect play.
MacMurchy, a former ninth round selection by the St. Louis Blues who really had no chance of ever cracking the squad, came into the tournament as the top scoring player on the Mannheim roster after an injury to Jamie Tardiff took him out of the event. MacMurchy made sure to really make his presence known, with his incredible wrist shot blowing a hole past Merzlikins for the 3-0 goal at the seven-minute mark of the second.
The second period was controlled almost solely by Lugano, who picked a pretty good time to improve their play. First, Fredrik Pettersson would score on a power play shot from the point at 32:04 with a floater that Endras somehow couldn’t stop. Then, two minutes later, Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Greg Hofmann’s shot would get tipped by former Detroit Red Wings protegee Damien Brunner, who used a good read to send the puck over Endras’ shoulder and in the net to bring the Swiss club within a goal late in the middle frame.
Lugano’s comeback effort couldn’t have been any more impressive. After looking completely out of the game at one point, Pettersson’s wrist shot from the blue line would go straight through Endras’ five-hole, penetrating the net and tying the game up at one apiece heading into the second period.
Linus Klasen is known for being one of the most creative players in hockey, and his two goals were an easy indication of that. Lugano’s return from a 3-0 deficit would end up with the team taking a 4-3 lead after Tony Martensson made a tremendous spin pass to Klasen, who was there for a nice tap-in at the doorstep. Then, a minute later, the former Nashville Predators prospect was in a perfect spot to receive a cross-ice turnover, eventually deking out Endras with a Pavel Datsyuk type move to single-handedly give his team the two-goal advantage. Alessio Bertaggia would score an empty netter before the game was done, ending any chance of a Mannheim comeback to take the 6-3 victory in front of a loud Swiss crowd at Vaillant Arena.
With the win, Lugano will have a day off before playing Jokerit at 9:00 am ET on Monday. Mannheim will be back in action, playing the same Finnish KHL club at 9:00 am on Sunday in hopes of recording a win before the elimination round.
Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.