TORONTO — Team USA’s Patrick Kane knew he was scheduled to cross paths with Blackhawks teammate and Team Canada center Jonathan Toews during the World Cup of Hockey.
They finally did so Tuesday night in a preliminary-round matchup and the only paths that were evident were Canada on the rise and the United States tumbling in the opposite direction.
Canada downed the under-matched United States 4-2 to eliminate the Americans from the tournament at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
When Kane and Toews faced off in a pair of pre-tournament games earlier in the month, Kane said the long-time Hawks teammates “were joking around” on the ice. On Tuesday, the joke was on the U.S., prompting questions about the direction of its international program. Before the game, Team USA coach John Tortorella called the showdown with Canada “a big opportunity for USA Hockey.”
It was an opportunity missed.
Meanwhile, there is no doubt where Canada is headed: To the semifinals. It holds a 2-0 record in Group A while the U.S. dropped to 0-2 and will play a meaningless game against the Czech Republic on Thursday night before heading home. Thanks to Canada’s victory, Team Europe — featuring Hawks winger Marian Hossa — also advanced to the semis that will begin Saturday night.
Matt Duchene scored twice and Corey Perry and Patrice Bergeron each added goals to provide the offense for Team Canada goaltender Carey Price.
The U.S., which actually took an early lead on a Ryan McDonagh goal, couldn’t get much going from there until T.J. Oshie scored in the waning moments.
It was another chapter in the rivalry between the U.S. and Canada that becomes more heated each time the teams meet. The intensity level was ratcheted up Tuesday night and with it followed some physicality that has become the staple of games between the teams.
“It’s just Canada-USA,” Kane said. “There’s so much history behind it, so many important games that either you have played in or watched. You can go back to even 20 years ago with the 1996 World Cup and how intense that was. There have been multiple big games in the Olympics (like) in 2002 in Salt Lake City, obviously Vancouver 2010 (and) back in 2014 (in Sochi, Russia) as well. The rivalry really never dies.”
Favored to win the tournament on its home soil, Canada has not been deterred in its march toward the final. It is there a possible showdown with Team Sweden looms. The Swedes continued their strong play with a 2-0 victory over Team Finland on Tuesday. Sweden moved to 2-0 in Group B and Finland dropped to 0-2.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who missed Sweden’s opening game of the tournament with an illness, returned and made 36 saves to earn the shutout.
“We knew the importance of this game and I think we played really smart, played really hard,” Lundqvist said. “We knew the Finns would come out and be very desperate. We tried to match that. They had a few opportunities, but overall I felt like we played with really good structure and it really helped me get comfortable out there. I felt pretty rusty the first period, not as aware as I wanted to be, but I got some really good help with some loose pucks. Then in the second and third I felt more and more comfortable.”
Anton Stralman and Loui Eriksson scored to provide the offense for Sweden, which will face Team North America on Wednesday.