Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wore a cape to his post-game interviews, which was fitting, because he was Canada's Superman during its tournament-opening win Wednesday.
Nugent-Hopkins made the most of his World Junior Championship debut, scoring a goal and adding four assists as Canada opened play at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship with a 9-3 rout of Germany in Group B play at Ufa Arena.
Nugent-Hopkins had a hand in Canada's first four goals, and combined with linemates Jonathan Huberdeau and Mark Scheifele to total 10 points. Huberdeau had a goal and two assists, while Scheifele had a pair of goals.
"We knew all three of those players are at an NHL level when it comes to their ability and mindset," Canada coach Steve Spott told TSN. "It's one of those things you hope it works out because Mark is playing out of his natural position [on the wing]. Ultimately I thought all three guys would be on the same page mentally because they're all so smart. Mark has adjusted well to the wing. Hopefully they can keep that going."
They should be able to, especially if Nugent-Hopkins keeps his play at such a high level.
"Ultimately you need your best players to be your best players in a tournament like this," Spott said. "Ryan is such a humble young man and to see him come out tonight and lead our team offensively along with Mark Scheifele and Jonathan Huberdeau, I think that speaks volumes for our hockey club because we're going to need that line to be great moving forward."
Nugent-Hopkins was getting his first chance in the World Juniors after being one of the final cuts from the 2011 team, and spending last season in the NHL. He was sporting a black Hockey Canada cape after the game, something he said the coaches will award to the best player from each game.
"I didn't know what to expect coming out," Nugent-Hopkins told TSN. "But the past couple [exhibition] games, our line really found some chemistry at the end of the Sweden game. We came out hard tonight and it paid off for us."
Canada led 2-1 after one period, but scored four straight goals in the first 13:48 of the second to blow the game open.
Ryan Strome had a goal and two assists for Canada, top 2013 NHL Draft prospect Jonathan Drouin had a goal and an assist, and Brett Ritchie added a pair of assists. Goaltender Malcolm Subban stopped 25 of 28 shots.
Three of the four lines contributed at least one goal, and Spott believes that kind of balanced scoring is what his team will need as it progresses through the tournament.
"When [Lightning GM] Steve Yzerman came and met with our hockey club, he said the top lines in this tournament can sometimes offset each other and the advantage Canada has is the depth of their lineup and we'll need that depth moving forward. Ryan's line will be counted on, but ultimately our depth with Strome, and [Boone] Jenner and [Nathan] MacKinnon, those guys are going to have to be great, as well."
Tobias Rieder, Leo Pfoderl and Nikolas Latta scored for Germany, while goalie Elmar Trautmann made 37 saves on 46 shots.
Xavier Ouellet gave Canada a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal 3:26 into the game when his centering pass bounced off a German skater and past Trautmann, and Nugent-Hopkins made it 2-0 when he finished a give-and-go with Huberdeau at 9:36.
Germany got a power-play goal with 58.9 seconds left in the first, but Canada wasted little time stealing back momentum in the second, as Scheifele started a shorthanded rush, then waited in front of the net as Nugent-Hopkins tipped a puck from behind the net back to him for a goal that made it 3-1 at 2:18 of the second.
Dougie Hamilton fed a cutting Huberdeau for a power-play goal at 4:24 to make it 4-1, and then goals 1:26 apart by Ty Rattie and Strome midway through the period made it 6-1 Canada.
Germany got a pair of goals later in the period from Pfoderl and Latta to make it 6-3, but Scheifele's goal with two seconds left in the period made it 7-3 after 40 minutes.
Drouin and Tyler Wotherspoon had goals in the third to cap the scoring.
Canada is off until Friday, when it plays Slovakia (4:30 a.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN). Germany returns Thursday to skate against the United States (9 a.m. ET, NHLN-US).
In the other game from Group B, host Russia survived a game against Slovakia, winning it 3-2 on Albert Yarullin's power-play goal with 9.9 seconds left in overtime.
The winning play started on the ensuing faceoff after Slovakia's David Bajanik was called for tripping. Russia's Mikhail Grigorenko beat Denis Hudec on the faceoff, winning the puck back to Yarullin. Yarullin slid the puck into the slot to Nikita Nesterov, who quickly returned it to Yarullin. The 2013 NHL Draft prospect fired a rocket that beat Slovakia goalie Adam Nagy over his shoulder.
Slovakia forced overtime when it scored a last-minute power-play goal of its own after a high-sticking double-minor on Maxim Shalunov with 2:20 left in regulation. Russia goalie Andrey Vasilevsky stopped a pair of shots, including one by Andrej Bires from right in front that hit Vasilevsky in the chest but he couldn't hold the puck. Richard Mraz was able to tap the loose puck between Vasilevskiy's legs and barely over the goal line with 37.7 seconds left. A replay review upheld the goal.
Russia led the game 2-0 early in the second after a goal in the first by Nikita Kucherov and one in the second by Alexander Khokhlachev. But Slovakia's Matus Matis got his team on the board at 14:13.
Nagy kept Slovakia in the game, stopping 24 of 27 shots. Vasilevskiy made 32 saves on 34 shots.
Russia next plays the United States on Friday (9 a.m. ET, NHLN-US), while Slovakia plays Friday against Canada (4:30 a.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN).
In Group A action at the Ufa Sports Palace, Miro Aaltonen had two goals and an assist as Finland topped Latvia 5-1.
It was a 1-1 game midway through the first when Aaltonen scored off a set-up by fellow 2013 NHL Draft prospect Rasmus Ristolainen at 12:23 of the period. Aaltonen added a power-play goal 15:27 to make it 3-1, and Finland cruised from there.
Ristolainen, No. 2 among Finnish skaters in NHL Central Scouting's preliminary ranking of players for this year's draft, closed the scoring with a goal in the final minute of the second period.
Finland next plays Friday against the Czech Republic, while Latvia comes back Thursday to face Switzerland.
In the other Group A game, Sweden opened defense of its gold medal by scoring a pair of power-play goals in the first 3:48 of the game en route to a 4-1 defeat of the Czech Republic.
Sebastian Collberg and top 2013 NHL Draft prospect Elias Lindholm took advantage of undisciplined play by the Czechs early, and Filip Sandberg scored shorthanded 3:03 into the second to make it 3-0. Team captain Filip Forsberg's goal in the third, to make it 4-0, was the only one Sweden scored at even strength.
Goalie Joel Lassinantti stopped 25 of 26 shots in his WJC debut.
Lukas Sedlak scored for the Czech Republic, and goalie Matej Machovsky made 37 saves.
Sweden next plays Friday against Switzerland, while Czech Republic next plays Friday against Finland.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
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