HELSINKI — Canada was tentative to start, assertive in the middle but ultimately didn’t have any finish.
Team USA got a coveted 4-2 win Saturday in the opener for both teams at the world junior hockey championship as a pair of third-period wrist shots from the blue line eluded goalie Mason McDonald of the Charlottetown Islanders.
It was believed goaltending was going to be an issue for Canada, with top goalie MacKenzie Blackwood out for two games due to an OHL suspension honoured at this tournament. But the Canadians were also guilty of overhandling the puck and passing when they should have shot.
Team USA defencemen Zach Werenski and Louis Belpedio each scored in the third period on harmless-looking shots, while Auston Matthews clinched the win for the Americans with a shot in close.
It was a pro-Canada crowd among the 6,112 at Helsinki Ice Hall — Canadians come by the hundreds over the holiday season to support their team overseas.
Dylan Strome and Matt Barzal scored for Canada.
Colin White also scored for a United States team coached by ex-Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson.
The game was tied 1-1 heading into the manic third.
Werenski set himself up to be the American hero, scoring on a wrist shot from the point at 7:22 of the third. It was a power play goal that gave the Americans their first lead, 2-1 lead.
But less than three minutes later, Werenski took a slashing penalty and Strome tied the game on the power play at 10:45. Set up by Leafs prospects Mitch Marner and Travis Dermott, Strome’s bullet of a shot found the corner.
The U.S. struck again — Belpedio’s knuckleball of a shot at 16:42 and Matthews connected at 17:23.
The first period was scoreless, nearly even chance-less as the shots were 5-4 in favour of Canada.
Barzal scored Canada’s first goal of the tournament to open a 1-0 lead on Team USA at 5:06 of the second.
Barzal was the third man on the rush after Rourke Chartier and Julien Gauthier led the initial attack. Chartier’s shot got Nedeljkovic out of position. Guathier was out of position to capitalize on the rebound, but his head’s-up pass found Barzal.
Canada held the play until White scored late in the period, banging in a bounce off the backboards at 16:33.
Canada practices on Sunday before facing Denmark on Monday.