Canada broke a 1-1 tie with two goals in the latter part of the second period en route to a 3-2 over Slovakia to open the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship for both teams.
Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd got the goals after Jamie Benn had opened the scoring in the first. Tomáš Tatar and Milan Bartovič scored for Slovakia. The last time the Slovaks beat Canada at the senior level was at the 2002 quarter-finals en route to their first and–for now–only gold medal.
“It was a good starting point for us, and now we want to keep getting better,” said defenceman Dion Phaneuf. “We know it’s going to get tougher game by game. We have four solid lines, and everybody played extremely hard today. It was a team effort.”
Tonight’s game at Hartwall Arena featured just three minor penalties, two to Slovakia.
Scoring chances were few and far between in the first period, but Canada did manage to produce the only goal on a sensational play by newly-minted captain Ryan Getzlaf. He straddled the blue line with the puck and drew several Slovaks to him before slipping a perfect backhand pass to Benn going towards the goal. Benn had only to hang on to the puck and tuck it past Peter Hamerlík at 14:21 for the opening score.
The Slovaks tied the game early in the second period off a giveaway by 18-year-old defenceman Ryan Murray. His stretch pass was picked off at the Slovak blue line by Juraj Mikúš, who carried the puck down the left side into the corner. Mikúš found Tatar at the faceoff dot and his quick shot beat Cam Ward between the pads.
The goal opened the game, however, and teams played end-to-end hockey the rest of the period, much to the delight of the fans. Both goalies were tested frequently with quality chances, but it was the Canadians who took advantage of the increased tempo.
Eberle put Canada ahead 2-1 on a shot Hamerlík would like to have again. At a bad angle to the goal, Eberle just took a quick shot that skittered through the goalie’s pads and dribbled over the line at 12:30.
Three minutes later, Ryan O’Reilly had a sensational shift to create Canada’s third goal. First, he hounded the Slovak defence to create a turnover in the offensive end, and then he threaded a perfect pass to Ladd in the slot. Ladd ripped a nice shot to the near side over Hamerlik’s shoulder to give Canada a two-goal cushion after 40 minutes.
“We didn’t have a great start,” Slovak captain Zdeno Chára said, “but in the second period when we tied the game I thought we played better. We opened up the game when we should have stayed closer defensively.”
Slovakia made the game more interesting with a goal early in the third. Like their first, it came off a pass from the corner to the slot. This time Mário Bližňák made the pass and Bartovič fired a quick shot through traffic to beat Ward and make it 3-2.
Canada incurred its only penalty of the game midway through the final period when Corey Perry took a penalty, but his teammates saved the day with fine penalty killing. Even with Hamerlík on the bench in the final minute the Slovaks couldn’t generate any quality chances, and Canada skated off the victors.
Canada plays again tomorrow against the United States while the Slovaks have a day off before playing hosts Finland on May 6.
NOTES: Canadian Alexandre Burrows suffered an undisclosed injury early in the second period and did not return after having trouble getting to his feet. Coach Brent Sutter would say only that it was an upper-body injury and Burrows would be re-evaluated tomorrow.”
IHLC: With the win, Canada retains the International Hockey Lineal Championship it won from Switzerland five days prior to the start of the World Championships in an exhibition game, winning its third straight game in their 57th IHLC reign. Canada and Slovakia last met over the IHLC at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where Canada won 3-2 to advance to the Gold Medal Game. Canada will next face border rivals the United States with the IHLC on the line.
14:21 – GOAL – Benn (Getzlaf, Keith)
21:58 – GOAL – Tatar (Mikúš)
28:52 – PEN – Šatan, holding
32:30 – GOAL – Eberle (Kane)
35:21 – GOAL – Ladd (O’Reilly, Purcell)
39:15 – PEN – Vydarený, holding
42:59 – GOAL – Bartovič (Bližňák, Haščák)
51:05 – PEN – Perry, tripping
W: Ward (19-21)
L: Hamerlík (27-30)
SHOTS ON GOAL
9+10+11 = 30
5+5+11 = 22
Goaltenders: Devan Dubnyk, Cam Ward. Defence: Jay Bouwmeester, Duncan Keith, Ryan Murray, Dion Phaneuf (A), Luke Schenn, Marc-Édouard Vlasic. Forwards: Jamie Benn, Alex Burrows, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Getzlaf (C), Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan O’Reilly, Corey Perry, Teddy Purcell, Patrick Sharp (A), Jeff Skinner, John Tavares.
Goaltenders: Peter Hamerlík, Ján Laco. Defence: Ivan Baranka, Zdeno Chára (C), Dominik Graňák (A), Kristián Kudroč, Andrej Sekera, Michal Sersen, Tomáš Starosta, René Vydarený. Forwards: Milan Bartovič, Mário Bližňák, Marcel Haščák, Marcel Hossa, Libor Hudáček, Tomáš Kopecký, Michel Miklik, Juraj Mikúš, Branko Radivojevič, Miroslav Šatan (A), Tomáš Surový, Tomáš Tatar.