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From the Branches: Auston Matthews wows Maple Leafs fans with first goal

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Ooooooh baby!

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Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The World Cup continues to produce some amazing hockey. Last night's Team North America vs. Team Russia game was bonkers, with lots of amazing plays and goals. In the first period the Russians looked lost trying to deal with the speed of players like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews. Just look at this play.

Out in Winnipeg they call this kid "meh". That's what happens when you have eight jumbo slushies per day, kids.

By the way, there was another player who made several great plays last night too. He's not exactly a big name, but you may have heard of him before too: CHARLES NELSON REILLY!

The Russian coach has been heavily critiqued for maintaining a traditional game plan that does not maximize ice-time of his star players like Alex Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk. That finally did pay off for him in the second period. The Russian's experience allowed them to counter the speed of their opponents, and led to Team N.A. goalie Matt Murray getting shelled. Four different Team Russia players scored over the course of 6 minutes. Murray was pulled by Babcock in favour of John Gibson.

The game then got pretty chippy. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nathan MacKinnon appeared to rekindle some animosity from times passed, and then this happened.

Team North America ultimately lost last night's game 4-3, despite a last minute push which included a shot off the post behind Sergei Bobrovsky. It was a really good game.

Then we have tonight's main event: USA vs. Canada. This game is going to be amazing. Due to the surprising victories by Team Europe, John Tortorella and company now face elimination at the hands of Sidney Crosby and friends. Could it get any better?

Team Canada isn't tanking any chances, though.  In the words of Mike Babcock, he expects the Americans to be "desperate."

I will be at the Fan Village again tonight and I hope to see you there! We can bother my friends at the Sonnet both and make more weird posters. Don't forget there is very limited seating, so be prepared to stand for the whole game. They have a lot of ticket giveaways in the third period (conveniently after many people have already left). Last night they also gave out signed sticks and jerseys.

World Cup of Hockey Fan Village highlights - Species
Species knows a lot about having fun, and he’s had lots at the World Cup of Hockey Fan Village.

Early World Cup Observations - Down Goes Brown
"Team Europe is great because they are old, like me, and really stuck it to Torts, another thing I enjoy."

Kesler takes on the villain role - Globe and Mail
Every successful soap opera needs a good villain, which is why we can all be grateful for Ryan Kesler’s presence on the U.S. World Cup roster.

Stamkos finally on the hockey world stage after heartbreak - Globe and Mail
You can hear it in Steven Stamkos’s voice, how the Sochi Olympics broke his heart.  Two-and-a-half years later, he still calls the experience "crushing."

Minority players having big impact in World Cup of Hockey - Color of Hockey
The World Cup of Hockey is only a few days old and already players of color are having a huge impact in the best-on-best international tournament – from a brother from France scoring to Big Buff sitting.

Atlantic Division Preview: Leafs could make things interesting - Chris H
Don't forget that NHL pre-season is right around the corner too, pretty much right after the end of the World Cup. Get a head start by reading up on the Maple Leafs division rivals.

Traverse City Tournament Musings - Blueshirt Banter
Read about some of the next draft's top prospects here, including Sean Day.

Sabres' Nylander ready to rebound after poor debut - BN Hockey
[Species: In your face, Magnus Nyström!]

Weighted shots for Tampa Bay Lightning individual players and duos - Raw Charge
Analysis using the passing data generated by Ryan Stimson and his team of volunteer trackers applied to the Lightning. The fundamental statistic resulting from the passing project is "primary shot contributions" or PSC

It’s Wayne Simmonds’ dog’s birthday, and he got a cake - Broad Street Hockey
[Species: It's still summer so we can't be 100% serious about hockey yet!]