KOŠICE, Slovakia – Matt Murray (Thunder Bay, Ont./Pittsburgh, NHL) was solid in net with 24 saves and Jonathan Marchessault (Cap-Rouge, Que./Vegas, NHL) struck on the power play, but Canada’s National Men’s Team was downed 3-1 by Finland on Friday in the opening game at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.
Mark Stone (Winnipeg, Man./Vegas, NHL) and Shea Theodore (Langley, B.C./Vegas, NHL) chipped in assists on Marchessault’s marker.
The two nations traded attacking momentum throughout an opening 20 minutes that saw Finland rack up an 11-6 shots advantage over Canada.
The Finns opened the scoring at the 6:47 mark when Kappo Kakko went to the backhand on the breakaway to beat Murray, but Marchessault responded on the power play at 8:03 by sniping a wrist shot off a perfect cross-ice feed from Stone.
Canada seized the territorial edge in the second period as its active forecheck kept Finland hemmed in the defensive zone for multiple extended sequences. Finland’s cycle attack came alive again in the dying minutes of the frame, but a couple of solid saves from Murray kept the game squared at the end of 40 minutes.
Arttu Ilomaki and Toni Rajala teamed up for a power-play goal at 2:36 of the third period by taking advantage of a bouncing puck in front of Murray’s crease. The Canadian goaltender made a great reaction save on Rajala at the side of the net, but he could not deny Ilomaki on the rebound from the slot.
Canada pressed ferociously for the equalizer, and came close to tying the game as Anthony Mantha (Longueuil, Que./Detroit, NHL) was robbed by the pad of Kevin Lankinen on a one-on-one chance on the doorstep with time running out.
Kakko confirmed the win for Finland with his empty-netter with 34 seconds remaining.
Canada vs. Great Britain – Sunday, May 12 at 2:15 p.m. ET/11:15 a.m. PT
“I thought we were on our heels in the first period. We got much better in the second, I really liked our second period, but then [Finland] got that bounce [that lead to a goal] at the beginning of the third and it put us back a little bit. I think we could have responded a little better, but give [Finland] credit, they played a good game. There’s no doubt in my mind that this group can play better and that’s what we’re going to work on in the next day or two.”
– Head coach Alain Vigneault (Quebec City, Que./Philadelphia, NHL) on his team’s opening game at the 2019 IIHF World Championship
“For our group, it’s not good enough. I think we have to be better, but you have to give credit to the other team. They were more desperate than us and they were the better team today. We had a lot of chances and their goalie was very good. For us, there is no excuse and we need to find the back of the net.”
– Marchessault shares his thoughts on the team’s first game