TORONTO -- It'd be easy for Team North America to look simply at its response, its pushback, and take solace in it.
It'd be easy for the players and coaches to tell themselves they were unlucky in this breathtaking game, because maybe they were when you consider how great Team Russia goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was, how close they were to connecting a on 5-on-3 in the third period and how loud the post sounded at Air Canada Centre when defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere rang his shot off of it with 14 seconds left.
It's important that Team North America remembers all those things, but none of them change the outcome of the game Monday. None of them take away from the reason why it lost 4-3 to Team Russia in the second game for each team in the preliminary round of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 on Monday.
Team North America fell to 1-1 in the Group B standings because it lost its way for a portion of the second period. It learned the hard way what happens when you don't play the full 60 minutes, especially in a best-on-best tournament.
"Unfortunately, when it goes into the record books, all 60 [minutes] count," Team North America coach Todd McLellan said.
Video: RUS@NAT: McDavid sets up Matthews for opening goal
Things were looking good early on for Team North America. Auston Matthews had his first goal of the tournament, likely his first of many in this building, his new home with the Toronto Maple Leafs after being the No. 1 pick at the 2016 NHL Draft.
Team North America's speed was evident. Bobrovsky had to come up with a big-time save on Connor McDavid's breakaway to prevent Team North America from taking a 2-0 at 5:23 of the second period.
Exactly 10:10 later, Team Russia had a 4-1 lead, thanks to a series of goals from forwards Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Vladimir Tarasenko in a span of 6:14.
"I thought we looked unsure out there for the first time as a team," McLellan said.
It was surprising only because of how fast and skilled and aggressive and, at times, dominant Team North America has looked since it first came together for training camp in Quebec City on Sept. 4.
"I thought we were hesitant," McLellan said. "When we're going well as a team, we're playing as groups of five and there's a relentlessness to us, we're working hard into position and then we're working to get to our next job. We didn't work that hard into position and we didn't get to the next job. They were quicker. They were stronger. They stripped us a number of times. We looked slow, and that's not the way we play."
Matthews said he thought Team North America got too cute with the puck.
"We just have to be smarter," Matthews said. "We're all intelligent hockey players. We're extremely skilled, extremely fast, so those are the things we gotta utilize, not saucing pucks back and forth, curling up and turning the puck over at their blue line and having them go back down on a 3-on-1 or 3-on-2."
They did some of that. Team Russia pounced.
It started when Team North America forward Brandon Saad coughed up the puck in the neutral zone on a solo rush, and Team Russia quickly transitioned the other way. Seconds later, Namestnikov scored on a rebound with a shot that hit the post and went in off of the back of goalie Matt Murray's skate at 9:29.
Thirty-five seconds later, Alex Ovechkin rang a shot off the left post, a lucky break for Team North America. Fifteen seconds after that, Kucherov scored from the slot after defenseman Jacob Trouba's clearing attempt took a bad carom off the glass and went to the front of the net.
Kuznetsov scored on a dynamic end-to-end rush at 13:37. He busted down the right wing and beat defenseman Morgan Rielly to the slot before putting it past Murray, who admitted he overreacted, opened up and allowed the puck to get under his arm and into the net.
Tarasenko scored the eventual game-winner at 15:53 with a shot through traffic that Murray said hit off a body in front and got past him. Nobody aggressively attacked Pavel Datsyuk when he carried the puck into the zone, and nobody went after Tarasenko when he got the puck.
Video: RUS@NAT: Tarasenko spins and scores through a screen
"We just gave them way too much space," said Murray, who was pulled after giving up the fourth goal. "I thought we might have sat back a little bit. When you sit back against a team like that, they're going to come at you 100 miles per hour and it's not easy to defend. We just gave them way too much space, and you can't with that lineup. You just can't."
Team North America snapped out of it before the end of the period and mounted an admirable comeback, proving it has the resiliency and character necessary to compete in this best-on-best tournament.
Rielly made it 4-2 at 17:54 of the second period and forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins cut the deficit to one with a power-play goal at 3:03 of the third. Team North America outshot Team Russia 19-4 in the third period 27-6 in the final 24:07 after Tarasenko scored.
"It was just a little lull in our game for about 10 minutes," Nugent-Hopkins said. "We can't afford that.
Lesson learned, the hard way.