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Quick Hits: Team Russia 4, Team North America 3

TORONTO -- Four goals on four straight shots. And that was just enough for the Team North America hysteria to get cooled Monday night in Air Canada Centre.

After doing very little for nearly half the game, Team Russia erupted for a quartet of goals in a span of 6 mninutes, 14 seconds and went on to hold off Team North America, 4-3, before a mostly disappointed crowd of 19,078. The result left both teams at 1-1 atop Group B.

Team North America was the talk of the tourney after Sunday's win over Finland and the building was up for grabs when Toronto phenom Auston Matthews scored on a tap-in off a slick feed from Connor McDavid to put the under-24 phenoms up, 1-0, after just 5:14 of play.

The Russian outburst that wiped out that lead began near the midway point of the second period with goals 50 seconds apart by Tampa Bay teammates Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov. Washington's Evgeni Kuznetsov scored at 13:37 and Team North America goalie Matt Murray was yanked after Vladimir Tarasenko's goal at 15:43.

Toronto's Morgan Rielly scored at 17:56 of the second period to make it 4-2 and Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got Team North America within a goal at 3:01 of the third to set up a frantic finish.

But Team North America failed to convert a 5-on-3 midway through the third period or a 6-on-4 in the final 40 seconds on another power play. Johnny Gaudreau missed a mostly open net in that sequence and Shayne Gostisbehere hit the goalpost in the final 20 seconds.

Big absence: Team North America played the game without its best defenseman as Florida Panthers standout Aaron Ekblad sat out with an upper-body injury announced shortly before the game, which ESPN is reporting was a concussion. There was no morning skate so Ekblad's injury remained secretive until the announcement. He took a tough hit from Toronto's Leo Komorov during Sunday's game that could have been the time the injury occurred. Jacob Trouba played in his place.

Jack splat: It was a tough night for Sabres center Jack Eichel, who played 14:02, had just one shot on goal and a minus-2 rating. Eichel also took two tough hits in the third period, a shot from behind by Alexey Marchenko and a high hit from Alexei Emelin. Eichel continued to play after both. Locker rooms are not open in this stage of the tournament and Eichel was not among the players brought to the post-game interview area.

Turnaround save: The game started to change when Sergei Bobrovsky stoned McDavid early in the second period. Bobrovsky made 41 saves in the game as Team North America built a 46-25 bulge in shots on goal that included a 19-4 margin in the third period.

"He was unbelievable," Russian captain Alex Ovechkin said of Bobrovsky. "You need a big moment, a big hit or huge save. The team will get up and start playing after that."

The thoughts of McDavid: "We turned it into a track meet in the second period and that's not what we needed against them. We opened it up too much, let them swing, gave up way too much gap between our forwards and defense, gave them too much time in the neutral zone. That's not the way to play the Russians."

The thoughts of Matthews: "That's hockey, that's life. It's not always going to bounce your way. You have to take it and learn from it. ... the goal was an exciting  moment for me but in the end we didn't get the result we wanted."

Kulikov report: New Sabres defenseman Dmitry Kulikov played 18:13 and posted a team-high six shots on goal for the Russians. He had a minus-1 rating and was on the back end of the Russians' 5-on-3 penalty kill.

Babcock chimes in: After his team practiced earlier in the day for Tuesday's game against Team USA, Team Canada coach Mike Babcock was effusive in his praise for Team North America. Said Babcock, who said he was "dialed in" on what Matthews and all of his players were up to in this tournament: "What a great way to showcase the NHL for the next 10 years. That to me is one of the most exciting things about this tournament. They've secured a whole bunch of new fans I believe. I think it's unbelievable marketing scheme. I don't know who came up with it but whoever did should get tons of credit. I think It's fantastic."

Up Next: Team North America plays Sweden Wednesday afternoon at 3 in what could be its final game together. Team Russia meets Finland Thursday at 3 in the final game of its group play.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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