Canada defeats Norway, 3-1, in ice hockey opener

Shea Weber and Jamie Benn scored in the second period Thursday to help defending Olympic ice hockey champion Canada shake off a sluggish start and defeat Norway, 3-1, at Sochi, Russia.

Patrick Thoresen redirected a shot in front of the net to pull the Norwegians within a goal on a power play 22 seconds into the third. Drew Doughty restored the two-goal lead 1:25 later in the period with a backhander.


‘‘Kind of a bad first period, we knew we weren’t going to be perfect,’’ Doughty said. ‘‘But the most important thing is we got better as each period went on and that’s what we were looking for.’’

Canada’s Carey Price made 19 saves in his Olympic debut, which included a giveaway that led to the only goal he allowed.

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‘‘Other than that, he was solid,’’ coach Mike Babcock said.

Goaltender Roberto Luongo, who helped the Canadians win gold in 2010 as the host nation, is scheduled to start Friday’s game against Austria. Babcock said Mike Smith will be in uniform as his backup.

The star-filled team likely will not be tested until it faces Finland on Sunday in the third game of the round-robin preliminaries.


The Canadians were in control for most of the game.

Weber’s slap shot — perhaps the hardest in the world — broke the scoreless tie at 6:20 of the second period. Benn scored from the left circle off a slick, cross-ice pass from Bruins star Patrice Bergeron, who also had an assist on the first goal.

Early on, Canada looked as if its talented players — all of them in the NHL — were slowed by jet lag. It had only one more shot than Norway in the scoreless first period.

‘‘They are a hard team to play against because they don’t take a lot of chances,’’ Canada forward Martin St. Louis said.

Russia 5, Slovenia 2 — Alex Ovechkin and the Russians got off to a breathtaking start against Slovenia, then relaxed. The result was a closer-than-expected win over a country playing hockey in the Olympics for the first time.

The Russians’ jaw-dropping skills, though, were still enough to beat Slovenia.

‘‘We started well, got the lead, and then we stopped playing,’’ Ovechkin said.

The surprising result led one Russian reporter to tell coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov it would be a ‘‘death sentence,’’ to leave goaltender Semyon Varlamov in net against the US on Saturday.

Yes, they’re taking hockey pretty seriously here — perhaps as much as Canada did during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Varlamov, who plays for the Colorado Avalanche, gave up two goals on just 14 shots and needed to kick his right leg out to deny Anze Kopitar when the game was still in doubt.

The Russians still had enough offense to overcome Varlamov’s performance.

Finland 8, Austria 4 — Finland had more than enough offensive talent to overcome its slow start against Austria, even with Teemu Selanne back in the dressing room with an upper-body injury.

Jarkko Immonen and Mikael Granlund scored two goals apiece as Finland opened preliminary-round play with a victory.

The Finns survived a shaky Olympic debut from Tuukka Rask, the vaunted Bruins goalie who yielded four goals on just 20 shots.

‘‘The first goal, everybody was caught sleeping there,’’ Rask said. ‘‘After that second goal, everybody kind of woke up and got back to playing again.’’


Germany 4, Japan 0 — Franziska Busch scored twice and Viona Harrer stopped 30 shots to help Germany earn its first victory of the tournament.

Both teams lost their first two games and had already been eliminated from medal contention. They will move to the classification round to determine their final ranking.

Russia 3, Sweden 1 — Russia finished unbeaten in Olympic women’s hockey pool play and earn a quarterfinal matchup against Switzerland.

Both teams won their first two games to clinch berths in the quarterfinals. Sweden will play third-seeded Finland, the defending Olympic bronze medalist.

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