TORONTO --This matinee World Cup of Hockey matchup between Team Sweden and Team North America didn't disappoint. In fact, it thrilled the masses Wednesday at Air Canada Centre and ended in a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory by Team North America, which means the roster of talented 23-and-under players is a step closer to advancing to the semifinals.
The only way Team North America can advance is if Finland defeats Russia on Thursday. Sweden picked up a point in the OT loss and will advance thanks to its 2-1 record.
Nathan MacKinnon's tally in OT sealed Team North America's victory.
Sweden knew the North Americans' speed would be a challenge, but the Scandinavians were stunned by just how fast the under-23s played from the opening puck drop. The first 1:35 of the game featured just about everything a hockey fan wants to see in 60 minutes of action. Team North America gained a 1-0 lead only 30 seconds into the game on Auston Matthews' goal. Twenty-six seconds later, Johnny Gaudreau was hauled down and awarded a penalty shot after he split Sweden's top defensive pair, Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman, on a potential breakaway. Gaudreau missed the penalty shot, but teammate Vincent Trocheck scored at 1:35 to give Team North America a 2-0 advantage. Judging by the crowd reaction (and even some in the press box), you would have never known it was a mid-week afternoon game in September. The atmosphere was electric, and the kids didn't disappoint with those three goals in the first 20 minutes. In true veteran fashion, however, Sweden settled in and scored twice in the opening period. Both teams registered 16 shots each in the first, too.
Then, Sweden seemingly put North America's speed in a vice and squeezed it. The Swedes slowed down the game in the second period but still trailed by a goal; Team North America held a 3-2 lead after two periods. After 40 minutes and a remarkable number of shots, Team North America held a 37-27 advantage in that category.
In the third, Sweden proved why it's a favorite to win this best-on-best tournament. The Swedes kept the game to their pace and tied the game on Patrik Berglund's goal with 6:50 left in the period.
Sweden entered this tournament with one of the most potent power plays of the eight teams, but it struggled in that category, going 0-for-5 against Team North America. In order for the Swedes to win this thing, they need to clean up their power play.
1. Johnny Gaudreau, Team North America: This dynamic player continues to dazzle the hockey world with his skill. He was without a doubt one of the best players on the ice Wednesday.
2. Shayne Gostisbehere, Team North America: A defensive wiz and playmaker who can control the play at both ends of the ice.
3. Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden: He continues to prove he's still a world-class goalie. Team North America created plenty of quality scoring chances, but the King made several timely saves to keep Sweden in this game.