SOCHI, Russia -- Drew Doughty went to the Vancouver Olympics four years ago as a spare defenseman and came back a star -- and with a gold medal.
Something about playing under the most intense pressure and scrutiny seems to bring out the best in the Kings’ franchise defenseman, and he showed that again Thursday. Doughty set up a goal and scored a highlight-film goal himself as Team Canada held off pesky Norway, 3-1, at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in the defending champions’ first game of the Sochi hockey tournament.
After a scoreless first period, Canada built a 2-0 lead in the second period on a blast by Shea Weber and a wrist shot by Jamie Benn. But a misplay by Canadian goalie Carey Price allowed Norway to cut that lead in half during a power play, after Patrick Thoresen deflected a shot by Mathis Olimb 22 seconds into the third period.
That’s where Doughty came in, restoring Canada’s two-goal lead at 1:47. Set free on a play begun by Patrick Marleau and Ryan Getzlaf, Doughty danced through Norway’s defense and sent a rare but nifty backhander past goalie Lars Haugen to establish Canada’s final margin of victory.
“It was an important goal. They got it down to 2-1, and if they score another one it’s a tie game and the nerves might kick up in our team’s play,” Doughty said. “It was important to get that insurance goal. We brought it right back to them.”
Doughty and the more mobile of Canada’s defensemen have been given the green light by Coach Mike Babcock to pinch in and take chances offensively. Those instructions are music to Doughty’s ears.
“He’s just letting me play my game. He’s letting me jump in as much as I can,” said Doughty, who has less freedom to gamble in the Kings’ defensive system.
“Obviously my first focus is to play hard, strong defense and not let the other team get any opportunities, but he’s letting me play, and I love it. He’s a great coach, and I’m happy to be here playing for him.”
He’s sure playing like it, as he did in the Vancouver Games.
“I have fun being here. I love representing my country. Every time I put the jersey on, it gives me the chills,” he said.
“It’s just an exciting time for me. And being on the world stage, that’s just a chance to prove to people how good of a player you can be, and that’s what I’m looking to do.”
Babcock said the best thing about the game was “it was hard,” meaning that Norway pushed his players physically and mentally. It was quite different from the teams’ last Olympic encounter -- an 8-0 thumping by Canada four years ago -- and represented a moral victory of sorts for Norway.
“They competed like crazy. They played hard on us,” Babcock said. “I thought it was good for our team to be in a tight game and make it hard.”
Babcock also said goaltender Roberto Luongo, the backup on Thursday, will start when Canada faces Austria on Friday. Mike Smith will be the backup.
In addition, Babcock said defenseman P.K. Subban, who didn’t dress for Thursday’s game, will be in the lineup against Austria. However, Babcock said he hadn’t decided on other changes. “It’s time to get playing so we can figure out what we have,” he said.
Asked about the status of Corey Perry, who appeared to be favoring his left leg after being hit hard in the third period, Babcock said the Ducks right wing is “healthy and ready to go.” Perry did return after the hit.