MONTREAL - The Lightning's Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist to lead Canada to a 2-1 victory over the United States on Tuesday night in the World Cup of Hockey opener for both teams.
The game was fast-paced and full of hard-hitting and stellar play by Canada goalie Martin Brodeur and U.S. counterpart Robert Esche. It took little time for the teams to show signs of the heated rivalry that has peaked since Canada beat the United States in the gold-medal game of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
Canada's 38-year-old captain, Mario Lemieux, went after Steve Konowalchuk when the American forward ran into Brodeur. Both teams lost players to injuries, as defenseman Ed Jovanovski was knocked out of Canada's lineup, and the United States was without forward Mike Modano for most of the game. Both were said to have lower body injuries and will be re-evaluated today.
Joe Sakic also scored for Canada, which controlled the game at both ends of the ice for the first 25 minutes. Bill Guerin scored for the United States, which beat Canada 5-2 in the final of the inaugural World Cup in 1996 in the same building.
"They came out hungrier then we were, way more intense," U.S. coach Ron Wilson said. "Fortunately Robert Esche was on top of things."
Canada plays its second game of the round-robin portion of the eight-team tournament tonight against Slovakia in Montreal. The United States faces Russia on Thursday night in St. Paul, Minn.
Canada led 2-1 at 16:03 of the second period when Konowalchuk came in hard and bumped Brodeur in the crease. Lemieux, not known for fighting, especially because of his fragile back, charged in and tussled with Konowalchuk until linemate Jarome Iginla took over. Defenseman Scott Niedermayer fought American center Jeff Halpern.
There were big hits on both sides that led to chants and noise from the mostly red-and-white clad capacity crowd of 21,273, which included Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.
By early in the second period, Canada had a 2-0 lead and was outshooting the Americans 24-6. The United States closed that gap and finished with a 32-24 shots disadvantage. St. Louis gave Canada a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 16:01.
SWEDEN 5, GERMANY 2: Mats Sundin had a goal and two assists to lead host Sweden. Sundin's goal was a gem, as he whipped a powerful backhander from the right circle past goalie Olaf Kolzig 1:59 into the second period to give Sweden a 2-1 lead.
"It's always fun to score a goal, to show the new, young guys," said the Swedish captain, at age 33 one of the oldest players on the team. "It was also nice to begin with a win, but it's not easy to start against a team which is not so good on paper, a team you're supposed to beat."
Kim Johnsson, Markus Nilsson and Fredrik Modin also scored second-period goals for Sweden. Marco Sturm and Daniel Kreutzer notched short-handed goals for Germany.
LIGHTNING, DRAFT PICK AGREE: The Lightning agreed to terms on a multiyear deal with defenseman Doug O'Brien, its sixth-round pick (192nd overall) in the 2003 draft. O'Brien, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of St. Johns, Newfoundland, spent last season with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he scored 17 goals with 46 assists and 146 penalty minutes in 66 games. Before last season, he played for Hull of the Quebec league, where he had 12 goals and 45 assists in 124 games over three seasons.
FRANCIS TURNS DOWN 'CANES: Ron Francis turned down a front-office job with Carolina and is still deciding whether he wants to continue his playing career. The Hurricanes told the 41-year-old center and former team captain they didn't want him back as a player, but they offered him a position working with young players in their system.
Carolina traded Francis to Toronto in March after he spent six seasons with the Hurricanes. He became a free agent in July, and his family remains in Raleigh. "I haven't made any decisions about what I want to do, but if I decide to play, then obviously I can't take the job," said Francis, who helped Carolina reach the 2002 Stanley Cup final. "If I don't play, I don't think the timing is right to step in there."
Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said the Hurricanes wouldn't hire someone else to fill the position offered to Francis, but the team might add another pro scout instead.
STARS PLAYER ARRESTED: Defenseman Trevor Daley, 20, was released on bail Monday on charges that he and Luke Sellars, a 23-year-old defenseman in Atlanta's system, uttered death threats in a Toronto nightclub. Daley's attorney, Dan Kirby, said his client is not guilty and the case will not prevent Daley from attending the team's prospect camp beginning Sept. 9 or training camp Sept. 20. Daley's next scheduled court appearance is Sept. 17, but Kirby said Daley does not need to be there.
BLUE JACKETS: Center Brad Moran re-signed, returning for his fifth season with the organization. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Columbus last season. He spent most of last season with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, totaling 24 goals and 35 assists in 72 games. He was second on the club in goals and points.
LABOR TALKS: The NHL and the union got back to the bargaining table in Montreal, meeting for 61/2 hours. Both declined comment until the two-day meeting wraps up today.
Times staff writer Tom Jones contributed to this report.