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Team Finland

Patrik Laine held without goal again

Team Finland forward comes up empty against Team Sweden, has yet to score at World Cup

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

TORONTO -- Forward Patrick Laine was good for Team Finland on Tuesday. He just wasn't good enough to help his team defeat Team Sweden in a make-or-break Group B game of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Air Canada Centre.

Finland struggled offensively for the second-straight game and dropped a 2-0 decision that leaves it on life support.

"We couldn't score," Laine said. "When you don't score, it's hard to win the game."

Laine is expected to score; it's what he has done at every step of his career. It is what he is expected to do when he reports to the Winnipeg Jets, who selected him with the second pick at the 2016 NHL Draft. It is what he was expected to do for a Team Finland that is in transition, blooding a new generation of stars, in this tournament.

But it has not happened here for Laine.

Video: FIN@SWE: Laine shows off hands, rips a laser on net

He had chances Tuesday, chances to get a goal that would have likely settled Team Finland down in what was a contentious, conservative game. But he couldn't convert.

"Of course, everybody wants to score to help their team," he said. "In those tight situations, I want to score."

Perhaps Laine's best chance came in the first period when each team was still looking to establish an advantage. Laine took the puck in the neutral zone and blew past Erik Karlsson, who has twice won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman. But Team Sweden goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, brilliant all game, parried the shot away with his shoulder.

"I made a pretty good shot, but it wasn't good enough and I have to be better," he said.

For Laine, better days are ahead for sure.

At 18, most believe he is ready to be an impact forward in the NHL. He has the size (6-foot-4, 201 pounds), he has the skating stride and maybe most importantly, he has the shot to be a scoring star for years to come.

Team Sweden defenseman Anton Stralman, who scored the winning goal in the second period, spent a portion of his afternoon chasing around Laine and his linemates, Aleksander Barkov and Sebastian Aho. He skated away knowing there is a forward coming to the NHL block that will cause headaches for defensemen across the League.

"He's very talented, obviously," Stralman said. "He's got one [heck] of a shot, that's for sure. I was trying to defend him a couple times, and he seemed to find an opening, a spot where it's hard for me to defend him. When he gets that puck, that release is something extraordinary.

"Luckily, Hank was in there and taking care of all those ones."

Such compliments are surely nice, but are of little solace to Laine with his team (0-2-0, 0 points) all but out of the running for a semifinal spot.

Basically, it has to hope for a series of miracles to find its way into the semifinals; Team Sweden (2-0-0, 4 points) must defeat Team North America (1-1-0, 2 points) on Wednesday, and then Team Finland must win against Team Russia (1-1-0, 2 points) on Thursday, the last day of pool play. Even if that happens, Team Finland will need to win big against Russia; it has a minus-5 goal differential after two games.

But if Team North America wins Wednesday, Team Finland will play for nothing more than pride on Thursday.

"This is a hard situation, like everyone knows," Laine said. "We just have to be positive and hope it gets better."

On a personal level, Laine knows he was better Tuesday than he was in a 4-1 loss to Team North America on Sunday. He feels his game has gotten better each day Team Finland has been together. On Tuesday, he was challenging the defense, he was holding onto pucks in the offensive zone and he was finding the blind spots in coverage from which he could unload his dangerous shot.

He did all of those things in the last minute of the game, placed on the ice to chase what Team Finland hoped would be the tying goal. At one point, the puck came to him for a patented one-timer. He pulled the trigger, but his stick shattered. Instead of a goal-seeking shot, the puck skittered away, cleared by Team Sweden to erase several precious seconds off the clock.

Video: FIN@SWE: Rask makes kick save to rob Backstrom in 2nd

"It's just frustrating because you want to score," he said. "I had a lot of chances to score, but [my] stick broke, puck bouncing and other stuff. You can't do nothing about those things."

Hockey can be a cruel game to scorers when it comes to bouncing pucks, hit goal posts and incredible saves from the opposing goalie. Laine knows this already.

He also knows better days are ahead, this season with the Jets and in the future with a national team that is loaded with young players.

None of that mattered Tuesday when he walked out of Air Canada Centre, knowing that it all could have been different if he could have somehow been better.

"I think we played a very good game and maybe deserved to win, but we didn't," he said. "We didn't score any goals."

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