KLOTEN, Switzerland – Any team looking to challenge Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championship should strongly consider studying the footage from this one.
The Slovaks provided a pretty good example of what works and what doesn’t. While demonstrating that some success can be had with a strong forecheck, they also showed the dangers of being too aggressive. Canada scored five goals with the man advantage Tuesday in beating Slovakia 7-3.
“Maybe we were a little too motivated,” said Slovak coach Jan Filc.
That’s one way to put it.
After taking some undisciplined penalties, his team found no way to contain a Canadian power play unit that runs through Shea Weber and Martin St. Louis on the point. Those men have plenty of firepower at their disposal in Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Derek Roy.
“That No. 1 unit’s unbelievable,” said Canadian forward Steven Stamkos. “You’ve got Marty out there kind of patrolling the blue-line, setting up passes. Web’s got that heavy shot from the point. Obviously Spezza and Heatley have some chemistry playing together. And Roy’s a pretty dangerous player when he gets the puck in the goal area as he showed on the first goal.
“You’ve got five dangerous guys out there and they seem to have some chemistry.”
Weber finished with a goal and three assists, scoring on one of those booming slapshots he honed as a kid back in Sicamous, B.C., by shooting at cans tied to the inside of a net. His goal at 13:41 of the second period chased Jaroslav Halak from the Slovak net and effectively ended the game by making it 5-1.
The Canadian power play is a combined 9-for-19 after three comfortable wins at the world championship. Its main strength seems to lie in its versatility.
“Weber is the real weapon on the power play, but there’s options if Weber is taken away,” said coach Lindy Ruff. “Marty St. Louis is a very creative guy, he can make things happen if we don’t go there. If you pay too much attention to one person, the options should be there to make other plays.
“I think we’ve seen that so far.”
Spezza, with two, Roy, Stamkos, Shane Doan and Ian White also had goals for Canada. St. Louis added four assists to bring his tournament-leading point total to nine.
Tomas Surovy, Marcel Hossa and Dominik Granak replied for a Slovakian team that was quick to acknowledge its mistakes.
“(It’s) simple, our first period we did stupid penalties,” said Hossa. “We gave them easy goals. (Playing) 5-on-5, I think we were a good team against them and we created a lot of chances. If we weren’t in the penalty box, maybe the game was different.”
In Tuesday’s other games, Russia defeated Switzerland 4-2, Belarus beat Hungary 3-1 and France stunned Germany with a 2-1 victory.
There was a fairly hostile atmosphere at Kloten Arena as the Slovaks came out hard in front of thousands of their fans.
Canadian forward James Neal was knocked out of the game after just three minutes when he was caught by a high-stick while colliding with Ladislav Nagy. That opened a laceration near Neal’s eye and he was taken to the hospital for stitches.
“He’s going to be OK,” said Ruff. “We will know a lot more tomorrow.”
There was no penalty called on that play but the Slovaks soon found themselves parading to the box and Canada made them pay.
Roy, Doan and Spezza all scored power-play goals to make it 3-0 at the end of a first period that seemed much closer than the scoreboard suggested.
The Slovaks briefly gave their fans some hope for a comeback when Surovy beat Dwayne Roloson with a quick shot at 6:05 of the second period, but it didn’t last long. White scored a little over three minutes later before the power play struck two more times before the end of the period.
Canada finished 5-for-7 with the man advantage while Slovakia was 2-for-9.
“That’s going to be the difference in these type of tournaments and ultimately it was tonight,” said Weber.
Canada, looking to win gold after settling for a silver a year ago on home ice, has outscored its opponents 22-4 so far and will face either Finland or the Czech Republic on Thursday night.
The games get increasingly more important from this point on and the Canadians were feeling grateful that Slovakia played a more aggressive style than the one they faced in earlier wins over Belarus and Hungary.
“I thought both teams engaged in the game emotionally,” said Ruff. “It was the type of game I thought we needed. They gave us a good run – they competed hard, they skated hard.”
It was an assessment that was shared by his players.
“That was a little more competition than we faced the first two times,” said Stamkos. “Lots of emotion in that game and that’s what we wanted – to get the emotion level up heading into the games that really mean something.”
Russia 4 Switzerland 2
At Bern, Alexei Morozov broke a third-period tie and Ilya Bryzgalov made 37 saves as Russia defeated host Switzerland.
The defending champions also had goals from Vitali Atyushov, Alexander Perezhogin and Ilya Kovalchuk. Martin Pluss and Ryan Gardner replied for the Swiss.
Belarus 3 Hungary 1
At Kloten, Alexei Ugarov scored the winner with 5:35 left in the third period as Belarus survived a scare from Hungary.
Alexei Kaliuzhny and Mikhail Grabovski had the other goals for Belarus.
Levente Szuper made 39 saves and Imre Peterdi scored for Hungary, which was dropped to the relegation round.
France 2 Germany 1
At Bern, Luc Tardif’s goal at 16:48 of the first period held up as the winner in France’s upset win over the Germans.
Anthoine Lussier also scored for France, which celebrated the victory like it had won a big playoff series. Jochen Hecht had the lone goal for Germany.