SOCHI, RUSSIA – After the final horn, Jeff Carter tried to give the game puck to Roberto Luongo in honor of the goalie’s latest Olympic shutout. Luongo handed it right back, claiming Carter’s hat trick was a bigger deal.
Carter and Luongo both realize Canada still has plenty of time to pick up more souvenirs in Sochi, and they’ve all got their eyes on something a bit shinier than a puck.
Carter scored three consecutive goals in the second period, Luongo made 23 saves, and Canada beat Austria 6-0 Friday to take a commanding position in preliminary-round play at the Olympic hockey tournament.
Shea Weber and Ryan Getzlaf each had a goal and an assist in the Canadians’ second win in two nights in Sochi. Their star-studded lineup rolled over undermanned Austria with 46 shots and relentless waves of offense, starting with Drew Doughty’s goal in the opening minutes before Carter’s natural hat trick in an 11:54 span.
Canada is still working on the fine points of defensive zone coverage and line combinations, but the big picture is fairly clear.
“Doesn’t matter who we face,” Doughty said. “We’re going to have the same confidence, the same swagger.”
The Canadians routed Austria with their offense coming mostly from unlikely places, including the second goals of the tournament from defensemen Doughty and Weber.
And after playing alongside Sidney Crosby in the opener, Carter moved among Canada’s four lines as the spare forward. The Los Angeles Kings goal-scorer made the most of that assignment, camping near the Austrian net and scoring all three times on short shots with assists from Patrick Marleau.
Luongo was tested several times in his first Olympic appearance since going unbeaten in Vancouver four years ago, capped by a victory in the gold-medal overtime game. The Canucks goalie improved to 7-1 with two shutouts in Olympic play over his three trips to the games.
Carey Price started the Canadians’ opener in Sochi, and coach Mike Babcock hasn’t announced who will start the preliminary-round finale against Finland.
With so much stellar offense at Canada’s disposal, the goaltending decision might not matter until the semifinals in a week.
Bernhard Starkbaum gave up six goals in the first two periods before Mathias Lange replaced him for the third for the Austrians, who weren’t exactly shocked to drop to 0-2.
“They could probably make five teams with the guys they left at home,” said Islanders forward Michael Grabner, who had a hat trick in Austria’s Olympic opener. “They’re definitely one of the favorites, if not the favorite, so I think we can be proud of our effort. Obviously, we would have liked to score a goal or two, but they’re a great team. It was a tough game.”
Canada didn’t score in the first period of its Olympic opener against Norway, but Doughty barely waited five minutes in the second game. The Los Angeles defenseman’s long wrist shot through traffic somehow eluded Starkbaum.
A few minutes later, Weber accepted a drop pass from Corey Perry and fired the NHL’s hardest slap shot underneath Starkbaum’s left arm. The puck ricocheted in and out of the net so quickly that the goal light never went on, but the referees knew what most fans couldn’t see.
After Carter completed his hat trick with 5:27 left in the second period on an easy tip-in, no Canadian fans tossed a hat onto the Bolshoy Ice Dome. Getzlaf then scored with a nifty backhand in the slot.
At least Starkbaum stopped Perry on a penalty shot in the second period.
Also Friday, Finland prepared for its game against Canada by routing Norway 6-1.
Teemu Selanne became the oldest hockey player to score at the Olympics with the first of the Finns’ three goals in the first period.
The Canadians, though, are going to be tough to beat.
“Those guys are super dangerous,” the 43-year-old Selanne said. “Those guys have four All-Star lines.
“It’s going to be a big challenge. It’s going to fun.”
The Finns (2-0) have beaten a pair of overmatched teams by a combined score of 14-5.
Finland, which also beat Austria 8-4, will be tested in the preliminary-round finale against the defending Olympic champion Canadians.
“We are underdogs — absolutely,” Finland coach Roy Johansen said.
The winner would earn a guaranteed spot in the quarterfinals.
“Everybody is excited because if we win, it will be like winning two games,” said Finland forward Jori Lehtera, who capped his team’s scoring flurry late in the first period.
The Finns hope to have forward Aleksander Barkov, who plays for the Florida Panthers, healthy enough to be in the lineup Sunday after he had a lower-body injury against Norway. Johansen said he didn’t know how serious the ailment was following the game.
Selanne silenced any questions about whether he’d play after leaving the previous game with an upper-body injury by starting the game and scoring early.
“I felt great,” he said.
The ageless forward looked good, too.
Selanne, the oldest hockey player in the Sochi Games, scored on a wrist shot 5:46 into the game. He was on the ice for 22 shifts, as many as any skater on his team. Not bad for the fifth-oldest hockey player in Olympic history, and the oldest since Chris Chelios suited up for the U.S. at the age of 44 in 2006.
“Teemu is very important for us,” Johansen said. “He’s our captain and he sets a good example for the younger players. He’s also a good person so it’s a good atmosphere all the time on our team.
“Teemu’s mind is so young.”Carter fuels blowout win
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5