International Ice Hockey Federation

Canada stays perfect

Smith & Oil key 6-3 win over Czechs

Published 04.05.2015 23:24 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Canada stays perfect
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 4: Canada's Matt Duchene #9 celebrates after Taylor Hall #4 gave his team a 2-0 lead with a first period goal against the Czech Republic's Ondrej Pavalac #31 during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Goalie Mike Smith was sensational, and Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall each had a goal and assist in the first period to set Canada on the way to victory.

Canada assumes first place in Group A with three regulation-time wins and nine points. Sweden has eight points and the Czechs and Swiss have four each. The Czechs have just one win in three games so far.

"We got a couple of power play goals, which definitely helped us," said captain Sidney Crosby. "I thought it was a pretty close game, to be honest. It probably wasn’t a three-goal difference."

Canada now has a day off to prepare for another titanic struggle, against Sweden on Wednesday, while the Czechs are idle two days before tackling France on Thursday.

Both teams were sloppy in their own end tonight. The difference was that Smith outplayed Ondrej Pavelec and handled the puck with the confidence of a third defenceman. As well, the Czechs couldn't convert several other great chances that went wide or didn't get to the net.

Canada escaped with a one-goal lead in the first period despite being outplayed. In truth, all three goals were the result of miscues.

Eberle got the first goal, at 4:18, when the puck went behind the Czech goal. Everyone thought it would go to the other side, but it hit the frame and stayed put. Eberle grabbed it and stuffed it in the near side, much to the surprise of Pavelec.

"It was huge getting the first one," Smith noted. "We talked before about how they were going to come at us. It’s always nice to play with the lead. It was a big turning point in tonight’s game."

The Czechs had the better of the puck possession but were hampered by a lack of finish. Twice they had Smith twisting the wrong way in his crease, but they couldn’t find the net.

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Canada went up 2-0 with only 58.4 seconds remaining on a sensational hybrid icing play by Jordan Eberle. With an icing in effect, he hustled down ice to get to the faceoff dot before any Czech players, thus washing out the icing call. Moments later, Jake Muzzin made a great pass through traffic to Hall, and he nailed a high shot into the open side of the goal.

But just as it looked like Canada would take a soul-sapping lead to the dressing room, the team made a bad error inside its line, failing to get the puck out. This time Jan Kovar took a quick shot that was redirected by Martin Erat, making it 2-1 with 38 seconds left.

It was a deserved goal for the Czechs and nullified the energy Canada had created.

Both teams played much better in their own end in the second period, and the Czechs forced Smith to make some quality saves. It looked as though the period would be scoreless, but at 15:45 the home side tied the game on an odd play. Dominik Simon got a weak shot off that was equally weakly deflected by Martin Zatovic, but the altered direction fooled Smith and the goal sent the crowd into paroxysms of joy.

That joy didn’t last long. On a goal identical to the first Czech goal, the Czechs failed to get the puck out over their blue line. Tyler Toffoli took a shot that was tipped in front by Sean Couturier, and at 17:40 the Canadians had re-claimed the lead, 3-1.

"I think the turning point was that goal," said Martin Erat. "It was a couple of minutes before the end of the second period. Afterwards, we just tried to force everything and that didn’t work out for us."

The Czechs couldn't muster a comeback in the third. Instead, they took two bad penalties that cost them. In the first instance, Tyler Seguin rifled a low shot under the glove of Pavelec from the top of the circle at 2:02.

"It’s been two games [without a goal], and I do enjoy scoring," Seguin said. "So I had lots of chances. Obviously it was nice to get that one and get some of my own pressure on myself off."

Then, at 10:07, Sidney Crosby got his third of the tournament to make it 5-2 and put the game out of reach.

Vladimir Sobotka finished the scoring for the Czechs with a goal off a loose puck in the slot that Canada failed to clear. 

Toffoli then added an empty netter at 18:31.

"You have to adjust a little bit and get used to the big ice," Crosby said. "They’re fast and you have to be good defensively, too. If you take a chance and try to cheat for offence, the puck can end up in your net. Just trying to find that balance of offence and defence is an adjustment."