MANNHEIM, Germany – In the absence of its captain, Canada took direction from John Tavares, Mark Giordano and a red-hot power play.
Tavares and Giordano scored two power-play goals apiece Monday as Canada rolled to a 6-1 victory over Latvia at the IIHF World Hockey Championship. The Canadians went 5-for-6 with the man advantage overall, and split the game between goaltenders Chris Mason and Chad Johnson.
Steven Stamkos and Steve Downie also scored while Corey Perry added three assists for Canada (2-0).
Georgijs Pujacs had the lone goal in reply for Latvia (1-1).
Canadian captain Ryan Smyth was forced to sit out with an ankle injury, dropping the average age of a young team even lower for the game. Smyth was favouring his left ankle during Sunday’s practice and missed the morning skate on Monday.
No timetable was provided for his return.
The absence forced coach Craig MacTavish to work with a short bench that included just 11 forwards. Tournament rules stipulate that another skater can’t be added?junior forward Jordan Eberle is here as an alternate?until after Wednesday’s game against Switzerland.
It didn’t prove to be much of a disadvantage against the Latvians, who won’t be eager to listen to the “Summer of 69” again any time soon. The Bryan Adams hit song was played in SAP Arena after each Canadian goal and provided the soundtrack for a forgettable evening.
Tavares scored his first goal of the tournament just 1:59 into the first period, roofing a nice Perry pass over goalie Edgars Masalskis from a tough angle. The former first overall pick punched the air in celebration.
However, the Latvians fought back and managed to generate some offence during the first 20 minutes, forcing Mason to be sharp. His nicest save came when he stood tall to block a high shot on a dangerous opportunity from Laurins Dazins.
Stamkos made it 2-0 at 18:19 on another Canadian power play, one-timing a pass from Kris Russell past Masalskis. It was his second goal in as many games.
The floodgates opened during the second period as Canada scored three times with the man advantage. Giordano one-timed a pass from Ray Whitney at 5:30, Tavares scored from in close at 6:58 and Giordano went five-hole on Latvian backup Martins Raitums at 19:06.
Downie also scored at even strength to give Canada a commanding 6-0 lead that wasn’t enough to silence the impressive group of Latvian fans who made the trip to Germany. They banged their drums and sang until the final buzzer.
With the game well in hand, MacTavish sent Johnson in for the third period. It was the first ever national team appearance for the 23-year-old form Calgary, who was beaten by Pujacs at 10:25 to lose Canada’s shutout bid.