Holders Canada edge Norway in opener

Frank Pingue

By Frank Pingue

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Canada began the defense of their Olympic men's ice hockey title with a 3-1 win over a determined Norway after overcoming a sluggish start at the Sochi Games on Thursday.

Despite having a team brimming with some of the world's top talent, Canada had to work harder than many expected to hold off one of international ice hockey's traditionally weaker outfits.

"In the first period I think we were kind of testing the waters a bit," Canada captain Sidney Crosby told reporters.

"Every team here is good and we know we have to get better as things go on but I thought in the second and third periods we definitely got to our game a lot more."

Norway, whose best Olympic finish came in 1972 when they finished eighth out of 11 teams, held Canada scoreless until Shea Weber blasted home a shot from the point as the midway mark of the game approached.

Canada took a 2-0 lead into the final period following a Jamie Benn goal but Norway cut the deficit through Patrick Thoresen's powerplay effort in the opening seconds.

Drew Doughty restored Canada's two-goal cushion 85 seconds later and Norway never threatened again as the contest drew to a close.

Group B action resumes on Friday with Canada playing Austria and Norway facing Finland.

Canada were unable to take advantage of many loose pucks in front of Norway's net, something they hope to correct.

"We can do a little bit of a better job of getting some more bodies to the net and getting some more second and third chances on the original shots that we take," said Canada forward John Tavares.

"Hopefully that's something we can get better at, and just keep adjusting to the style of play and the bigger rink."

Canada fired 38 shots at the Norway net but goaltender Lars Haugen kept his team in the game, turning aside an offence that features four high-powered scoring lines.

"They are obviously a very good team but I think we did a good job," said Haugen, who made 35 saves. "We were obviously hoping to get a good start because we play Finland tomorrow (Friday) so we needed some confidence."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Mark Pangallo)

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