WASHINGTON — John Tortorella sensed his players were tired of practising and getting coached and were ready for the World Cup of Hockey.
They played like it, too.
The United States beat Finland 3-2 on Tuesday night in each team’s final exhibition game before the World Cup begins this weekend in Toronto. Goaltender Jonathan Quick played well enough to earn the starting job for the first game of the tournament, and despite some late trouble the Americans looked prepared for the real thing.
“I think the boys feel tournament ready,” said forward Max Pacioretty, who had an assist. “That probably was the most comfortable we’ve felt.”
Quick made 30 stops, giving up a goal on a perfect shot by teenage phenom Patrik Laine and another on a scramble in front by Jussi Jokinen. T.J. Oshie, Ryan Kesler and Derek Stepan scored for the U.S., which went 2-1-0 in exhibition play and begins the World Cup on Saturday against Team Europe.
Tortorella called it the Americans’ best of the three exhibition games and cited progress in several areas.
“We were cleaner,” Tortorella said. “Have we got it all figured out? No. And we probably won’t get it all figured out. It’s just not enough time to cover all the things we’d like to cover, so we just keep on banging away here and see if we can get better each day.”
Pacioretty was much better than in two previous games, responding to Tortorella’s comment that he needs “more” from the Montreal Canadiens forward. The new line of Pacioretty, Kesler and Oshie clicked, with Oshie appearing extra motivated playing in front of Washington Capitals fans.
“When you’re at your home rink, you just feel comfortable,” Oshie said. “Always fun playing at home.”
Quick, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Los Angeles Kings, stopped 63 of the 66 shots he faced in exhibition play. He put any doubt to rest about the U.S. starter, and Tortorella said Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning would serve as the backup.
“A lot of things can happen in the tournament, but I believe in the body of work from all three goalies,” Tortorella said. “It’s a really hard decision. I think Jonathan has just done a little bit better than the other guys, so he’ll be our No. 1 guy to start the tournament.”
Finland must still decide on its starter in net after Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators stopped 26 of 29 shots against the U.S. It’ll be either him or Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins in Finland’s opener Sunday against Team North America, but Rinne earned praise from coach Lauri Marjamaki.
“Pekka was great,” said Marjamaki, who didn’t name his starter for the first game. “I like the style how he played. Of course he (faced a) couple of breakaways, so great game for him.”
Laine, the No. 2 pick in the draft to the Winnipeg Jets, enjoyed his best exhibition game. The 18-year-old had four shots on goal, several nifty moves and his snipe past Quick.
“It is good for us and of course important goal for him,” Marjamaki said. “I think that his confidence getting better, and he can use his strengths in tournament.”
The big, physical U.S. team is ready to use its strength in the tournament after sharpening some things against Finland.
“We’re getting better,” Quick said. “Every game we’re a little bit better, and we’ll continue to get better.”