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Patrick Sharp makes Olympic debut in win over Norway, then scratched for game vs. Austria
By Mark Lazerus
SOCHI, Russia — Jonathan Toews has worn the maple leaf on his jersey at one previous Olympics, two World Championships, and two World Juniors.
It never gets old.
“It’s awesome,” he said after Canada defeated pesky Norway 3-1 in its preliminary round opener Thursday night at the Bolshoy Ice Dome. “All of these guys have played in big games before, they’ve been in pressure situations. But I don’t think anything compares to playing for Team Canada. I don’t care who you are, there’s still some nerves, still some excitement.”
For Patrick Sharp, Thursday night’s game was the realization of a lifelong dream. He had played in two World Championships, but never in the Olympics. After forcing his way onto the team with his brilliant play in the first half of the NHL season, Sharp skated on the second line with Toews and Rick Nash, and was a point man on the power play with Duncan Keith — just like with the Blackhawks.
On Wednesday, Sharp said, “I’m excited to play. I’ve been thinking about it a long time, and I’m ready to go.”
But after the game on Thursday, he tried to downplay the “lifelong dream” angle, saying that it hasn’t really hit him in that way yet.
“Not really,” he said. “I’m excited to be here, I feel like I deserve to be here, and I just want to have a good tournament and help my team in any way I can.”
Sharp will have to wait for his next chance. Team Canada announced before Friday night’s game against Austria that Sharp would be a scratch, replaced by Matt Duchene. Canada coach Mike Babcock also will replace defenseman Dan Hamhuis with P.K. Subban. While Canada’s roster is incredibly deep, Sharp’s scratch still is a surprise, given the fact he was playing on the team’s second line and on the power play. Against Norway, he played 14 minutes, 21 seconds, took one penalty and failed to get a shot on goal.
It was a shaky start for Canada, which found itself in a scoreless tie with Norway through one period — just like in 2010. But in that game, Canada pulled away and won 8-0. It was a little tougher this time around. Canada got goals from Shea Weber, Jamie Benn and Drew Doughty, and Patrice Bergeron had two assists as Norway was outshot 38-20. Carey Price made 19 saves for the win.
Sharp said the Canadians came out “a little pumped up and maybe overworking a bit,” but weren’t sweating the scoreless tie in the first intermission.
“There are too many pros in our locker room to get antsy in a situation like that,” he said.
Toews said Canada expects more teams to play a defensive game, like Norway did, and Keith said the game was as tight as he expected it to be. It might not have been as impressive as the United States’ 7-1 rout of Slovakia, but it’s a three-point win all the same.
Canada plays again Friday against Austria. Roberto Luongo will get the start as Canada eases into the tournament with a couple of overmatched opponents.
“I don’t think we really look at it as easing into it,” Keith said. “We’re just taking whatever comes at us. Whether it was Finland, Russia, U.S., whoever we were going to play, we were going to have to find a way, and we did that tonight. We just want to get better regardless of who we’re playing.”