Murray Falters and Team Czech Falls in #WCOH2016 Action

Monday delivered two of the more exciting games of the World Cup of Hockey tournament. With Team Europe facing Team Czech Republic and Team North America facing the juggernaut of Team Russia, fans were not disappointed and treated to 120+-minutes of great hockey. Let's recap shall we?




Czech out the OT win for Team Europe:

It took OT to figure out who would emerge the winner of this standoff. Team Europe would come out on top and now sits in first place in Group A of the WCOH.

After a scoreless first period, Zdeno Chara would float a shot past a screened Petr Mrazek to open up the scoring. Jakub Voracek would tie the game at 1 mid-second period getting around a pinching Roman Josi but Team Europe would once again pull ahead when Mrazrek mishandled a fluttering shot from Mats Zuccarello early in the third.

Martin Hanzel would knot it up at 2 about six minutes later on a power play opportunity taking a bouncing puck coming off the end boards and putting it past Team Europe's goalie, Halak.

The game would go to overtime, and at 2:06,  Leon Draisaitl would take a pass from Zuccarello and beat Mrazek blocker side to put the win away for Team Europe. It was Draisaitl's second goal of the tournament.

Halak faced 28 shots in his second tournament win. Mrazek, on the other end, made 38 saves in a game that all but puts the Czech Republic out of contention for the semi-finals.



Missing Ekblad, Team NA falls to the Russian Machine:

Just before the start of the game, it was announced that Team North America's top defenseman, Aaron Ekblad, was out due to an undisclosed upper body injury. This would bring in the previously scratched Jacob Trouba to fill the slot. Also, Matt Murray would get the nod 2 games in a row as the Young Guns stood toe-to-toe with the Russians.

The game proved to be a thriller. Auston Matthews opened the scoring early taking a pass from Conner McDavid, beating goalie Sergei Bobrovsky top side. Bobrovsky would stand tall and firm until late in the second fending off the speed and agility of Team NA and flat out robbing Larkin, Couturier, and McDavid of goals.

That save against McDavid is what changed the game for Team Russia.

On the ropes and having no answer to Team NA's speed, the save against the speedster McDavid gave life to Russia and little by little, Russia would wear down the youngsters and catch them flat. Russia would tie up the score when a shot of the post by Vladislav Namestnikov deflected into the goal off Matt Murray's foot while he was outstretched in the goal crease. Evgeny Kuznetzov would make it 2-1 just 50-seconds later. By the time there were five minutes left in the period, Team Russia was up 4-1 over their young counterparts, and Matt Murray was pulled and replaced by John Gibson.

Things would start getting a bit chippy as forward Nathan MacKinnon tried to spark life into, now struggling, Team North America coming to shoves with Russia's Andrei Markov on two instances.

Team NA would have a plethora of Power Play opportunities but could was not able to get anything past Bobrovsky until late in the second period when Morgan Rielly would score followed by a Power Play goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pulling Team NA within one. The late game surge with a pulled goalie and on yet another power play would not be enough to overcome the sluggish second period and Russia would come out victorious.

When asked after the game, MacKinnon said that the team was ..."bad in front of Murray in first period and a half."  When Coach Todd McLellan was asked of what he thought of Trouba's performance after the game being thrown in at the last minute, he had this to say:
"I thought he played a hell of a game"

Matt Murray suffered a minor injury during the game in a jammed thumb and was seen taping his hand during a station break. Although he was pulled, he's expected to once again get the nod against team CZ.

Other Notes:

Tuesday's action starts at 3pm with Team Finland taking on Team Sweden on ESPN and concludes with a desperate Team USA facing off against Team Canada at 8pm on ESPN.

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About Medina Menozzi

I write about the Penguins and anything associated with them. I work a lot and my social life reflects that. How do you handle me? With a good shot of tequila and a prayer. Kat Stratford is my spirit animal.
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