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2016 World Cup of Hockey: Halak shuts out Team USA in tournament opener

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Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak stopped all 35 shots, leading Team Europe to a 3-0 victory over Team USA in the opening game of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

World Cup Of Hockey 2016 - United States v Team Europe
Lotsa this
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Not bad for your first game since March.

Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak stopped all 35 shots, leading Team Europe to a 3-0 victory over Team USA in the opening game of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Marian Gaborik, Leon Draisaitl and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored the goals for the ragtag Battlestar Galactica fleet of a team that wasn’t expected to make a lot of noise at the tournament.

Halak was named the first star of the game.

Here are two Halak saves from the third period. With Team Europe up by three, Halak kept the Americans off the board with some quick pad flashes. First on Justin Abdelkader after a point shot from T.J. Oshie...

WCH 16 Halak Save 1

Then on Zach Parise with Team USA a late power play...

WCH16 Halak Save 2

Halak also gets bonus points for this on Patrick Kane...

Back on March 8th, Halak went down with an injury during a 2-1 Islanders win over the Penguins. His absence elevated back-up Thomas Greiss to starter, and Greiss was instrumental in the Islanders winning their first playoff series in 23 years. Later in the summer, Halak had surgery for a sports hernia, and he’s been the subject of trade rumors.

But he looked pretty darn good Saturday afternoon, giving Team Europe one more win than many people thought they’d have all tournament long. After getting their lunch money taken by the freshman of Team North America during the first four periods of the practice games, coach Ralph Krueger said his team decided they didn’t want to go out like a bunch of punks and coalesced.

"The only thing we spoke about in that intermission was either we pack up and roll over and go home, or now we pull together and we fight to build an identity," Europe head coach Ralph Krueger said after Saturday's eye-popping 3-0 win over Team USA to open the World Cup of Hockey. "That's when identities are born: at difficult times. If you're a loser, you don't have character, you collapse, and if you're loaded with character like we are, you come together.''

Washington’s Philipp Grubauer backed up Halak on Saturday, while Greiss was a scratch.

For Team USA, starter Jonathan Quick made 14 saves while coach John Tortorella chose to scratch Dustin Byfuglien (53 points last season), Kyle Palmieri (57 points) and Cory Schneider (.924 save percentage), leading to a ton of second-guessing following the shutout. Their closest chance at a goal came in the second period, when the puck was directed off of James van Riemsdyk’s chest and into the net. The score was subsequently waved off.

Right now at least, lot less people are second-guessing both Halak and Team Europe.