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Winter Olympics 2014: Canada edges Norway in Olympic debut

It was closer than any Canadian fan wanted it to be, but Canada edged out Norway with a slim 3-1 victory on the backs of Jamie Benn, Patrice Bergeron and Drew Doughty.

Streeter Lecka

SB Nation 2014 Winter Olympic Coverage

With P.K. Subban and Matt Duchene watching from the sidelines, Canada began its quest for gold in the 2014 Winter Olympics against Norway, a lower-tier hockey country with nothing to lose, with a 3-1 win.

The game began fairly slowly, with Alex Pietrangelo notching Canada's first shot of the tournament 1:08 into the game off of a pass from Sidney Crosby from behind the net, but the Norwegians weren't giving up much space, playing very aggressively man-to-man.

Norway's aggressive style forced Canada into two icings in the first four minutes of play, which took the flow out of the game even further. In fact, due in part to the physicality of Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, Norway held the shot advantage until a penalty for too many men on the ice just over seven minutes into the first period.

Whether it was nerves or adjusting to the big ice in a game situation, the Canadians looked awful for most of the first period, which somehow ended tied at zero with the shots nine for Canada, eight for Norway.

One of the focuses the Canadian coaching staff mentioned was to keep shifts short on the big ice, with many players averaging under 40 seconds, which could account for some of the lack of offensive punch as players were adjusting.

Canada finally seemed to find its stride, using its speed to open Norway up a little bit, and using the full width of the wider rink to open up passing lanes, keying on getting shots from the slot. Jamie Benn and Rick Nash were just barely stymied by Lars Haugen.

Benn's hard work in the offensive zone finally forced the Norwegians to take a penalty, but Canada didn't need it, with Shea Weber wiring a shot from the point into the net to take the lead just under six and a half minutes into the second period, with assists going to Duncan Keith and Patrice Bergeron.

Although Sidney Crosby was the most dominant force for long stretches, not enough good can be said about Jamie Benn, whose quick hands put a second goal in Norway's net on the 13th shot of the second period for Canada, an off-balance wrist shot from the slot that went post and in on Haugen.

Patrice Bergeron notched his second assist of the night on Benn's goal, showing once again how versatile a player he is. Drew Doughty got the second assist on the play.

It took the Norwegians nearly 18 minutes into the second, and a power play, to get their first shot of the period on Carey Price, whose calm demeanor may have given the Canadians the time they needed to get themselves sorted in the game.

Norway began to push offensively towards the end of the period, forcing Duncan Keith to take a penalty with 27 seconds remaining in order to stop a breakaway.

With Canada shorthanded to begin the third period, a miscommunication behind the net between Price and Alex Pietrangelo caused panic in the defensive zone, and Norway capitalized with a deflection in front of Price, who was struggling to get back into his net, getting the game within one.

Price went behind the net to stop the puck, but for some reason Pietrangelo didn't pick this up, and skated casually towards it while a Norwegian player swept in with speed, took the puck and put it out front.

Showing no panic at all, Drew Doughty deked into the slot on the very next shift and scored a beautiful backhander on an individual effort, bringing the smiles back on the bench. Assists on the play went to Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Marleau.

Midway through the third period on a Canadian power play, Chris Kunitz laid out a brutal hit from behind, which somehow caused him to get a two-minute penalty for slashing -- yes, you read that right. Considering international hockey's strict stance on hits from behind, it's very possible that Kunitz could face disciplinary action for the hit.

There would be no more scoring in the game, although Canada did buzz the zone for the remainder of the period. The shot count ended at 38-20 in favor of Canada, which is probably a lot more shots than Canada expected to give up, and fewer goals than it would expect from that many shots.

You have to respect the way the Norwegians pushed Canada physically, constantly on top of players and limiting the space they could work with, along with the way they defended the middle of the ice in their own zone, keeping transition shots on Lars Haugen to a minimum.

Canada will be back in action tomorrow against Austria at 12 p.m. ET.

If you missed the game and live in Canada, you can watch the entire broadcast via CBC here.

More on the Winter Olympics:

SB Nation's Winter Olympics medal tracker | Meet Team USA

Shaun White fails to capture gold | Women make halfpipe podium

What you need to know about curling | Bobsled, luge and skeleton

Miracle Put on Ice: 1984 US hockey team never had a chance

Hockey: Men’s schedule | All 12 men’s rosters | USA roster analysis