Do-Line Gives Early Warning
Sharp, Benn, Nugent-Hopkins combo immediately effective
HELSINKI, Finland -- Patrick Sharp knew exactly what he was getting when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was placed on a line with him and Jamie Benn at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.
"He had a lot of success against the Blackhawks this year, I'm familiar with the type of player he is," Sharp said of Nugent-Hopkins. "He's a great skater, he handles the puck well and he can finish when he gets an opportunity as well."
It showed on Monday as the newly formed unit piled up the points during a 7-2 victory by Canada over France.
Nugent-Hopkins opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game and went on to add another goal and an assist while Sharp finished with a goal and four assists and Benn had two goals and an assist.
"It was a fun game," said Nugent-Hopkins.
The No. 1 overall pick from last year's NHL draft was the first to admit he struggled in Canada's first two games of the tournament. Against France, Sharp took a number of faceoffs in his place -- he and Nugent-Hopkins rotated between centre and wing -- and the trio was dangerous virtually every time it was on the ice.
"It's a transition coming overseas," said Nugent-Hopkins. "I didn't want to get down on myself because it's a long tournament."
Canada got exactly what it wanted from a game against one of the weaker teams at the event. Coach Brent Sutter thought Canada's overall defensive play was much better than Saturday's 5-4 overtime loss to the United States and his line juggling yielded some immediate results.
All and all, it was a step forward.
"There's still room for improvement," said Sutter.
Jordan Eberle and Corey Perry also scored for Canada (2-0-1) while Devan Dubnyk made 19 saves and picked up the victory in his first ever start at the world championship.
Brian Henderson and Alexandre Rouleau replied for France (1-2-0).
Playing in a near-empty Hartwall Arena -- announced attendance was 3,415 -- there wasn't much energy in the building. France didn't even start its top goalie for the game, choosing instead to send in 39-year-old Fabrice Lhenry while resting Cristobal Huet for later in the tournament. …