MANNHEIM – Canada scored an easy 12-1 victory over Norway this afternoon at SAP Arena. Jordan Eberle, the 19-year-old, activated to the roster because of injuries, had a goal and three assists. Evander Kane had two goals and an assist, and the third member of the line, Rich Peverley, chipped in with a goal and two assists. It was Eberle’s international debut at the senior level. He had played at the 2010 and 2009 World U20 Championships.
John Tavares had a hat trick for the winners to bring his tournament-leading total to six. Canada wore retro jerseys to honour the 2009 U20 team, a fitting tribute given that four of the players in today's game wore the original a year and a half ago.
"The game almost gets a little easier when you're playing with such good players," Eberle observed. "Passes are always right on the tape, and you can do things you can't do in junior. The guys are always talking to you."
The win puts Canada into a first-place tie with Switzerland in Group F of the Qualifying Round although the Swiss has a game in hand. Norway remains in fifth place with three points.
Canada’s defensive troubles cost the team the opening goal. Chris Mason made a save off a harmless shot, but the clearing in front of him was poor and the puck ended up on the stick of Jonas Holøs at the top of the circle. His quick shot went under the blocker arm of Mason just 1:35 into the game for an early and surprising 1-0 lead for Norway.
"It's not the start we wanted," Marc Staal said, "and it happened to us last game as well. It wasn't a good thing for our confidence, but we knew there was a lot of time left and we could score."
The period was mostly an unmitigated disaster for Canada and the team was as flat as the crowd was small and quiet. The low point came midway through when defenceman Kris Russell got the puck and at the same moment Corey Perry broke out of his end.
All Russell had to do was put the puck on his stick and Perry had a 40-metre breakaway. Instead, he drilled a too-hard pass easily three of four metres wide of his teammate, and instead of a breakaway, it was an icing call.
Canada tied the game at 13:09 off the rush. Marc Staal’s original shot was stopped by Ruben Smith, but Evander Kane backhanded the rebound between the goalie’s pads to tie the game. Smith was playing because number-one goalie Pal Grotnes was serving an automatic one-game suspension for a match penalty in the team’s last game.
Later in the period, on a power play, Mats Zuccarello Aasen hit the post, but the period ended 1-1.
Canada found a bit of its mojo at 3:51 of the second period on the power play. Ray Whitney’s point shot was nicely tipped by Perry in front past Smith to give Canada a 2-1 lead.
"We didn't control the game in the first period," Marc Staal admitted, "but we were patient and then got some time on the power play and got some goals."
Jordan Eberle made a fine little play to key Canada’s third goal later in the period. He made a nice back pass off the boards at the Norway blueline to Matt Duchene. Duchene took the puck to the net and passed off to the trailing defenceman, Marc Giordano who made no mistake with his shot from the slot.
The 19-year-old Eberle was called into action with injuries to Ryan Smyth and Steve Stamkos and was a solid if unspectacular player. He didn’t dominate the game by any means, but he also played smart, shifted well, and gave the team some valuable minutes.
And then the roof fell in for the Norwegians. Canada scored three late goals in the period to make it 6-1. That last goal, by Steve Downie, resulted in two penalties for Norway. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen took a roughing penalty and captain Tommy Jakobsen took a five-minute major and match penalty for bumping a referee during the discussions.
On the ensuing 5-on-3, Ray Whitney made it 7-1 and with the major penalty still in effect, Kane got his second of the game standing to the back side and drilling a delicate and perfect pass from Eberle past the beleaguered Smith.
In all, Canada scored five goals in a span of 3:06 at the end of the second. It had seven goals in the period, four of which were power plays.
"We had a good first period but then we took some stupid penalties and let them play their game," Mathis Olimb said. "We didn't follow our game plan, and then when they got a couple of goals we fell apart."
Eberle got his first goal of senior play early in the third on a nice shot from in close. Tavares added two goals later to finish his hat-trick performance, and Duchene got the 12th goal on a pretty shot from in tight.
"I knew before the game I'd be on the power play with the second unit, but then our line played well early on and he [coach Craig MacTavish] kept playing us. It's nice to earn your ice time like that."
Canada’s next game is Sunday night against Sweden while the Norwegians play earlier that day against Latvia.
NOTE: Defenceman Brent Burns played much of the game on left wing to make up for the short-handed bench because of the loss of Smyth and Stamkos. He had two assists and two penalties, including one for slashing that could have been called a more serious foul for butt-ending.