Back-to-back goals from Team USA's Drew Shore and Nick Bjugstad gave the Florida Panthers a glimpse at what their future may hold.
Shore scored the U.S. team's second goal just 52 seconds into the third period and Bjugstad netted the eventual game-winner with 8:20 left as the Americans earned a bronze medal in this year's World Junior Championship with a 4-2 victory over Sweden on Wednesday at HSBC Arena.
Bjugstad was picked by the Panthers in the first round (19th overall) in June's NHL entry draft, while Shore was a second-round pick by Florida in 2009.
"I met him this summer at the camp," Bjugstad said of Shore. "We don't talk about it much, because we're not there yet, but we've developed a friendship. Hopefully that can carry on in Florida."
Shore and Bjugstad scored near-identical goals, tipping shots past Swedish goalie Fredrik Petersson Wentzel.
Shore's goal came after he got his stick on a point shot by Justin Faulk.
"When their goalie is playing that good, you've got to get guys in front of him, tip pucks, and screen him so he can't see it. We were able to do that and two of them went in," Shore said.
Bjugstad seconded that notion.
"That's how goals are scored nowadays, going to the net and tipping it in," Bjugstad said.
Bjugstad practiced what he preached later in the third period, tipping Nick Leddy's point shot with his back to the net. So how often does he score one like that?
"I try it out in practice," he said. "It just happened to work today. I didn't even really know it went in. It was one of those, just going to the net, put your stick out to try and deflect it and it goes in."
"He did a good job getting his body in front of the goalie so he couldn't see it. The defenseman made a good play just putting it off his stick and it was able to go in," Shore said of Bjugstad's goal. "That was a huge goal for us and it definitely was a turning point in the game."
The Americans peppered Wentzel with 44 shots.
"That was definitely part of the plan," Shore said of getting pucks on net. "I think the main plan was just to come in and play this game as hard as we could because it's the last game we have together as a group. I think we did that and everyone was happy with it."
Shore and Bjugstad, however, could team up again just down the I-90, as the Panthers' American Hockey League affiliate is in Rochester.
"That's both of our goals [playing professionally], so when that happens, I think it's going to be great," Shore said.
For now, both will return to their respective college teams. Bjugstad, 18, is a freshman at the University of Minnesota. The 6-foot-4, 204-pounder won the 2010 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award.
Shore, 19, is a sophomore forward at the University of Denver. He played two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development program. In the 2008-09 season, he was joined by his brother, Nick, on the team. They became the first siblings to play together on a NTDP squad at the same time.
"I was proud of the way we played," Shore said. "I was definitely happy with the experience I had here."