Glen Metropolit hasn't played an NHL game since 2010, but on Thursday, the oldest player on Canada's Spengler Cup roster showed why he's the captain of the Canadian squad.
After nearly scoring on his first shift of the game, the 39-year-old Metropolit — who's played for Lugano in the Swiss league the past two seasons — picked up a goal in the first period and assisted on Derek Walser's game winner in the third as Canada opened up the Spengler Cup with a 5-4 victory over the HC Vitkovice Steel of the Czech Republic.
"Even at his age, on the blue-line and in the offensive zone, he's still one of the best players in the game in Switzerland so that's where he's going to be really good for us," head coach Doug Sheddan said. "He's played for me before and that's why I made him captain. This could be his last Spengler Cup and his children are here visiting from Florida.
"It's just something that gets him excited about playing."
Byron Ritchie, Micki DuPont, and Alexandre Bolduc also scored for Canada in a back-and-forth offensive game that saw leads slip away between both teams four times.
Rudolf Huna, Peter Huzeka, Roman Szturic and Lukas Kucsera scored for Vitkovice.
Vitkovice's Filip Sindelar was the busier of the two goaltenders, stopping 37 of 42 shots in the losing effort. Canada's Chris Mason made 18 saves.
Carrying the play
"We were outshooting them pretty good all night," Sheddan said. "We really carried the play against them."
Ritchie's goal tied the game at 4-4 at 7:58 of the third period, and Walser beat Sindelar off passes from Anthony Stewart and Metropolit at 13:47 to pull Canada ahead for good.
Bolduc opened the scoring with an unassisted goal at 2:30 of the first period, but Kucsera responded with a goal for the Czech club team less than two minutes later.
Canada took the lead again on Metropolit's goal, and Vitkovice replied to take a 2-2 tie into the first intermission.
The second period proved costly for Canada when a turnover gave Vitkovice a 4-3 lead 11 seconds after DuPont tied the game 3-3 on a power play.
Sheddan said the mistake could be chalked up to unfamiliarity between his players, who've had just one practice and one morning skate together before their first game.
"The problem was we gave up some easy scoring chances off some miscues and that's going to happen with guys who haven't played together, and it happens every night anyway if you have played together." Sheddan said. "I thought their goalie really kept them in it because we really crashed the net all night, and it showed the heart of the Canadians.
"We were down going into the third period and we thought we were playing well enough, we just had to keep at it and we did that. You work hard enough eventually you're going get rewarded with a couple goals."
Canada plays host HC Davos on Saturday.