The Edmonton Oil Kings edged the Shawinigan Cataractes 4-3 to claim victory in the opening game of the Memorial Cup tournament Friday night in Shawinigan, Quebec.
Henrik Samuelsson scored the game winner and Griffin Reinhart notched a goal and an assist as the WHL champion Oil Kings outscored the Cataractes 3-2 in a wild third period to earn the victory over the tournament's host team.
The Oil Kings struck early, capitalizing on a turnover as Michael St. Croix knocked down a clearing attempt and fed Kristians Pelss for an easy tap-in on a 2-on-0 break.
The Cataractes, who were playing their first game in a month after a second-round elimination in the WMJHL playoffs, tied things up just under six minutes later as Michael Chaput buried a shot from the slot past a sprawling Laurent Brossoit while on the power play.
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After a scoreless, tight-checking second period that saw just 11 shots on goal between the two teams, the game opened up in what was a thrilling third period.
Reinhart gave the Oil Kings a 2-1 lead on a harmless looking play just 1:01 into the third period. The 18-year-old from West Vancouver, B.C., carried the puck into the Cataractes' zone on the left boards and fired a wrist shot that beat goaltender Alex Dubeau high on the glove side.
Martin Gernat put the Oil Kings up by two goals 5:40 into the period, wiring a shot from the point that took a deflection past Dubeau with the teams skating 4-on-4.
Anton Zlobin got the Cataractes within a goal less than a minute later. The Moscow, Russia, native tapped a loose puck past Brossoit that just squeaked across the goal line. The play had to be reviewed as official Nicholas Dutil had whistled the play dead just as the puck crossed the line.
Continuing to carry the play following Zlobin's marker, the Cataractes evened things up, benefiting from some good fortune as Chaput capitalized after Keegan Lowe bobbled the puck just in front of Brossoit, wiring a quick wrist shot to the roof of the net past a stunned Brossoit.
However, Samuelsson restored the Oil Kings' lead just 23 seconds later. Another turnover in the Cataractes' zone resulted in Stephane Legault feeding Samuelsson for a quick one-timer that Dubeau had no chance to stop.
Despite a furious press by the Cataractes, including a key power play chance late in the third, the Oil Kings made Samuelsson's goal stand up as Brossoit shut the door to ensure the victory in the Memorial Cup opener.
Brossoit, the MVP of the WHL championship series, turned in a 30-save performance, making some solid saves in the final few minutes of the third period, to post the victory. Dubeau made 20 saves in the loss for the Cataractes.