MALMO, Sweden – Canada picked a good time to play its best game of the world junior championship.
After two shaky contests against the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Canada beat the United States 3-2 on last day of preliminary round action.
The regulation win secures first place in Group A for Canada, while the United States finishes in second with crossover quarter-final matches scheduled for Thursday. The first place finishes means the Canadians will face Switzerland Thursday; avoiding a potential QF showdown with top-ranked Sweden.
Canadian forwards Connor McDavid and Curtis Lazar scored early in the third period, breaking open a 1-1 tie.
Sixteen year old McDavid, now has four points in the tournament, one behind Sidney Crosby’s performance at the same age.
Andrew Copp replied for the United States with 2:15 remaining, but it wasn’t enough as goaltender Zach Fucale shut the door.
He made 22 saves in the game, his biggest coming midway through the third period when he kicked out his left pad on a breakaway to deny Connor Carrick.
Fucale, who made 19 saves in a 5-3 victory over Slovakia, was sharp early.
He stopped underager Jack Eichel on a two-on-one four minutes in and then snagged a shot from Riley Barber on an American power play.
Fucale was the reason why the opening frame ended in without a goal scored.
But, still, the Americans managed to net the first goal when Barber beat Fucale on a wraparound at 3:29.
The goal came short-handed, just after a penalty to Canadian winger Taylor Leier ended with the teams skating four players aside.
Canada has yet to score first in any of its tournament or pre-competition games.
That’s when Canada, which had been handily outplayed to that point, took over.
Jonathan Drouin hit the post on a two-on-one, while Bo Horvat hit the crossbar on a shot from the slot off the rush.
Nic Petan, who scored twice against Slovakia, scored Canada’s first goal at 12:19 into the second.
Anthony Mantha set up the goal, giving the hulking winger his team-leading 10th point.
Griffin Reinhart played his first game of the tournament after serving the final three games of a high-sticking penalty accrued last year.
Reinhart skated with alternate captain Mathew Dumba on the top pairing.