International Ice Hockey Federation

Canada starts strong

Top line paces attack in 6-1 win

Published 01.05.2015 19:06 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Canada starts strong
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 1: Canada's Jason Spezza #90 celebrates with Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a first period goal against Latvia during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Canada's top trio of captain Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, and Jason Spezza combined for eight points in a 6-1 win over Latvia at O2 Arena tonight.

Spezza had two goals and an assist, while MacKinnon had a goal and two assists, and Crosby had a goal and an assist. Crosby's goal came in the final minute on a penalty shot and was his first score in World Championship play since 2006, his only previous appearance.

"I can only speak for myself," he said after. "I know that I haven’t felt great after years in the past, with injuries and stuff. The fact that I felt healthy and we were out of the playoffs pretty early, and my body felt pretty good. When you get a chance to represent your country, it’s a pretty big honour. You just try to make the most of the opportunity."

Canada scored three times of an opening period in which goalie Mike Smith was called on to make several fine stops.

Canada now has a day off before facing Germany on Sunday while the Latvians  are right back at it, playing the hosts Czech Republic on Saturday night at what will be a sold-out O2 Arena.

It took only half a period for Canada to get its bearings, although Spezza missed a great scoring chance off a fine Crosby pass on the first shift of the game. Midway though, Spezza brought the puck out of the corner, pushed it to MacKinnon in the slot, and the 19-year-old drilled a high shot over the stick of Ervins Mustukovs at 9:57.

"Obviously with Sid and Spezz, those guys are world-class players," MacKinnon enthused. "They make it really easy for me to play out there. Obviously they’re both very talented playmakers and they always have their heads up, looking for the open guys. So it’s definitely a lot of fun."

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Three minutes later, the pair struck again. This time they rushed up ice together, and after Mustukovs couldn’t control a Dan Hamhuis point shot, Spezza snapped the rebound in.

Matt Duchene made it 3-0 at 14:11 when Taylor Hall brought the puck from the corner and fed Duchene in close. That forced coach Alexander Beliavski to call a time out to settle his team down.

"We started off pretty okay," noted Lauris Darzins, "but after the first ten minutes, I think we lost our focus a little bit, and you can’t lose focus against Team Canada. Right away they had a couple of chances. They scored three goals. I mean, after that, it’s tough to come back from 3-0 against Canada. I don’t think there’s any team in the world that can do it."

Two quick goals in the second period pretty much sealed the win. Hamhuis fired a hard point shot that Mustukovs couldn’t cover, and less than a minute later Crosby did some great stickhandling in the corner leading to a Spezza tap-in at 3:04.

That spelled the end for Mustukovs. He was replaced by veteran Edgars Masalskis, who had a steadying presence while Canada took its collective foot off the gas.

Canada was content to let the clock run down in the third, but the Latvians ruined Smith's shutout on a bit of bad luck for MacKinnon. Off a Latvian rush, he checked the puck carrier, but as he did so he swiped the puck right to Kaspars Daugavins alone in front. The Latvian forward had a wide open net and fired it in at 12:06.

Crosby got the final goal of the night when he was hooked from behind by Roberts Bukarts on a clear break, drawing a penalty shot. Number 87 snapped a great shot over Masalskis's glove with 23.2 seconds left in the game.