Ice hockey-Canada avenges 2018 loss with win over Germany in Beijing opener

BEIJING, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Canada outgunned Germany 5-1 in its men's ice hockey opener at the Beijing Games on Thursday, earning sweet revenge over the team that ended their run at a third straight Olympic gold four years ago.

Canadian forward Eric O'Dell leveled defenceman Marco Nowak behind the German net early in the first period, leading to an opening goal from Alex Grant and setting the tone for a fast and physical rematch of their Pyeongchang semi-final.

Centre Ben Street fired the puck into the top corner of the German goal to double the advantage minutes later and Daniel Winnik found the back of the net just 32 seconds later to open a 3-0 lead in the contest at Wukesong Sports Centre.

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Tobias Rieder flipped in a rebound midway through the second period to cut the Canadian lead, but Maxim Noreau converted on a power play chance minutes later to restore the three-goal advantage en route to the convincing win.

"Just thinking about now. But obviously (Pyeongchang is) in the back of your mind, it was a tough loss, and felt good to get the win against them today," said O'Dell, a member of Canada's 2018 team.

With the National Hockey League pulling out of the Winter Games at the last minute due to a COVID-19 surge, the men's tournament kicked off in Beijing this week with no obvious favourite.

But the nine-times Olympic champions made a convincing case for themselves as top contenders on Thursday, piling on another goal in the third, courtesy of centre Jordan Weal.

"We did a great job preparing for the game... Anytime you have a start like that, you’ve got to be pretty happy with it," Grant told reporters after the game. "We kind of had a little dip eventually in the game but then we got back on track."

Shortly before puck drop, Hockey Canada announced that Claude Julien would resume head coaching duties, arriving in Beijing after previously staying behind due to an injury he sustained at a training camp.

Meanwhile, at National Indoor Stadium, Sweden fended off a gritty challenge from Latvia 3-2, while Finland swatted aside Slovakia 6-2 and United States crushed host China 8-0.

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Reporting by Amy Tennery in Beijing; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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