TORONTO -- It was the kind of free-wheeling, take-your-breath-away performance the hockey world wondered if Team North America could produce in the World Cup.
Ask and you shall receive. The kids are OK. And the hype will only grow now after the under-24 sensations flummoxed Finland, 4-1, in their opening game Sunday night in Air Canada Centre.
Team North America had a 43-25 advantage in shots on goal and a 77-40 bulge in shot attempts. And its first goal of the tournament was an ode to recent draft history and, perhaps to the next 10 or more years of NHL play: Jack Eichel from Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid.
"It was a blast for all of us who have been looking forward to playing in this tournament for a while," said Eichel, who tallied on a power play at 5:03 of the first period. "Just to be able to get here and finally play, we were all so pumped up for it before the game. To get that first win builds our confidence and we just have to keep it going."
Sabres by the numbers: Eichel played 14:31 in the game, had a goal and a plus-1 rating, two shots on goal and went 5-6 on faceoffs. Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen played 22:28, second on the team, and had a minus-1 rating. He had two shots on goal and four hits.
Matthews' moment: Eichel's goal was set up by Toronto phenom Matthews, who blew by Ristolainen along the left-wing boards in the Finland zone. He worked the puck to Eichel, who beat Pekka Rinne between the legs from close range.
Eichel on Mathews' work on the goal: "He was able to escape a check on the wall and drive the net. That's a great play by him."
Matthews on the goal: "That's a pretty good feeling to go out there and contribute. All four lines really brought something tonight. Everybody is out there doing their part. We utilized our strengths and put them on their heels."
Matthews' numbers: The No. 1 overall pick played 14:20 and tied for team-high honors with five shots on goal.
On the scoresheet: Team North America got goals from four players and points from nine. Defenseman Colton Parayko, with two assists, was the only player with more than one point. Johnny Gaudreau, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin scored the other goals.
Goal of the night: Gaudreau's mid-air deflection of a Parayko shot was highlight-reel stuff as the Calgary winger tipped the puck with his stick while leaping and doing a spin.
Finland's MVP?: At least in the first period, it was the goal line behind Rinne. MacKinnon nearly scored on one play but defenseman Villa Pokka swept it off the line at the last possible second. In the final three minutes, McDavid looked like he had put Team North America up 2-0 as the puck stopped dead on the line and was then pushed over it by Rinne's right skate. But incidental interference was called on Mark Scheifele for pushing a defenseman into Rinne and knocked the puck into the net.
Musical interlude: Team North America players chose Chiddy Bang's "Opposite of Adults" for its goal song.
No, Canada: Following the morning skate, Eichel raised a few eyebrows among Toronto reporters when he talked about how unusual it would feel to get cheered in Canada, and reiterated a story he's told a few times in Buffalo about how his family was treated in Montreal during the 2015 World Junior Championships. Specifically, he related how his sister was harrassed on the streets prior to Team USA's New Year's Eve loss to McDavid-led Canada.
“I think it gets kind of dramatic when people start insulting your family,” Eichel said. "How do you insult a girl? That’s pretty pathetic. I don’t know. But that’s hockey, I guess. You have to deal with that.”
In the Team NA net: Pittsburgh's Matt Murray was strong in the first period when the game was close and then was able to coast for the final 40 minutes. He lost his shutout with 4:07 left on a goal by Valteri Filppula.
Roll call: Toronto fans gave huge roars during introductions to the three Leafs in the game (Matthews, Morgan Rielly and Finland's Leo Komarov). Team NA captain McDavid, the pride of suburban Newmarket, also got a big ovation.
No rest for the weary: Team North America is right back at it again Monday at 8 on ESPN2 against Russia. The Alex Ovechkin/Evgeni Malkin-led Russians will be desperate after Sunday's 2-1 loss to Sweden. Finland meets Sweden on Tuesday at 3.