Los Angeles: Team USA were outskated and outworked on Saturday in a 3-0 upset loss to Team Europe in the opening game of the World Cup of Hockey.
Marian Gaborik, Leon Draisaitl and Pierre Eduoard-Bellemare each scored and goaltender Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves in Europe’s lopsided victory at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
“That’s one aspect that nobody would have given us credit for is how well we can play offensively,” Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger said.
In the other opening day contest, Sidney Crosby finished with a goal and two assists as top-ranked Canada routed the Czech Republic 6-0.
Europe will face the Czechs on Monday in Group A action of the World Cup, which is being revived after editions in 1996 and 2004.
The two-week event including eight teams representing six countries and two continents features the largest collection of NHL talent ever assembled in one tournament.
On Saturday, the USA looked slow and flat-footed as they were unable to muster many quality scoring opportunities.
Adding to their woes was coach John Tortorella’s decision to scratch Dustin Byfuglien, who had been one of their best offensive defencemen in pre-tournament warm-up contests.
“It was a struggle for us,” Tortorella said. “The part of the game that bothers me most is creating some scoring chances, some better quality scoring chances.”
Team Europe’s margin of victory would have been bigger had it not been for goaltender Jonathan Quick.
The Americans get a chance to rebound when they face Team Canada on Tuesday.
German forward Draisaitl scored the prettiest goal of the contest in the second period when he finished off a back-and-forth, two-on-none rush with Nino Niederreiter.
The play started on a bad turnover by USA star forward Patrick Kane in his own zone allowing Europe defenceman Tobias Rieder, of Germany, to chip the puck up ice for the two-on-none.
Gaborik, of Slovakia, opened the scoring at 4:19 of the first period on another odd-man rush. Defenceman Ryan McDonagh failed to keep the puck in the offensive zone, leading Gaborik on a two-on-one rush with Frans Nielsen and he made no mistake by slipping the puck past Quick.
France’s Bellemare also had a strong game, rounding out the scoring by redirecting a Jannik Hansen point shot past Quick with 88 seconds left in the second.