Nathan MacKinnon made it look easy–the whole team did–beating a game Slovenia, 7-2, despite some fine goaltending from a beleaguered Gasper Krošelj.
Krošelj faced 51 shots, many of them first-rate scoring chances, but he could do only so much on his own.
Chad Johnson, making his first career start for Canada in the World Championships, faced just 14 shots. He had previously appeared in bits and pieces of three games in 2010.
“We had the puck for most of the game so I didn’t really have a lot to do,” Johnson said. “To be able to get in a full game and get a feel for the ice surface was nice.”
Slovenia had never beaten Canada in the only three previous meetings, and it was clear from the outset that history wouldn’t be made today.
“Every game, we just want to go out there and help the team win, no matter how we do it,” Canada’s Mitch Marner said. “I think all of us are just contributing, and that gives us a chance to win no matter who’s putting up the points.”
Canada was superior in every aspect of the game, so much so that most of the 9,128 fans watched in awe as Canada moved the puck around with ease. They cheered Slovenia’s every long shot, pokecheck, or small play that flummoxed Canada ever so briefly.
Canada now improves to 2-0 this year and has won 21 of its last 22 World Championship games. Slovenia is now 0-2 (one shootout loss).
Several Canadians had big games. MacKinnon also had an assist to go with his three goals; defenceman Tyson Barrie had a goal and three assists; Travis Konecny had three helpers; and, Mitch Marner had a pretty goal and assist.
“I thought the puck was following me around,” MacKinnon enthused. “I had a couple of greasy goals. Skins [Jeff Skinner] and G [Claude Giroux] made it easy for me out there. Marner made a nice pass to me cross-ice, and I managed to score.”
“We didn’t expect to win against Canada,” admitted Slovenia’s Jan Muršak. “They have a very quality team. All the NHL players are there, and we don’t have one. We just tried to survive, maybe make them work a little harder. But the bottom line is that they were just too good. As soon as we were a second too late on the play, they were creating a lot of chances, and we were chasing them around in the defensive zone.”
Canada gave fans their money’s worth, starting with a goal by Barrie after a nice bit of circling by Wayne Simmonds. Barrie took a little drop pass and whisked a shot through heavy traffic in front past Krošelj at 4:30 to make it 1-0.
Canada didn’t get its second until ten minutes later, but again it came after a lengthy puck possession and ended with MacKinnon pushing a loose puck in the crease over the goal line.
Less than two minutes later, Krošelj, who had made several fine saves, was beaten by his own defenceman. Brayden Point tried to centre the puck, but it bounced off the skate of Luka Vidmar and past the surprised goalie.
Canada made it 4-0 on a thrilling little play. Calvin de Haan fed a streaking Giroux with a pass. Giroux pirouetted in front and got a shot off, but Krošelj made the save. MacKinnon, though, was unguarded in front and put the rebound in at 4:44.
The scoring continued. MacKinnon scored his hat-trick goal a minute later on a power play, drilling a high shot over Krošelj’s glove that had the crowd oohing and aahing.
Slovenia got on the board on a memorable play. After a faceoff win in their own zone, the Slovenes roared up ice, Robert Sabolič feeing a nice pass to captain Jan Muršak streaking for the net. Muršak made a nice deflection past the pad of Chad Johnson to make it 5-1.
Marner got a sixth Canada goal, taking a pass in front and outwaiting half the Slovenian team before chipping the puck in the open net.
Skinner made it 7-1 on a crazy play inside the Slovenia end. He tried to pass to the point from the faceoff dot, but the puck hit the shaft of Ales Mušič’s stick and deflected over the hunched back of Krošelj.
Jan Urbas got the second Slovenia goal at 17:55 during a delayed penalty against Canada.
Canada is back at it tomorrow, playing Belarus. The Slovenes have a day off before facing Norway in an important game for both teams as they hope to avoid relegation.
“Hopefully against Norway, we can stick together and play the best hockey in this tournament,” Muršak added. “Hopefully we can get a point or two or three.”
IHLC: With the win, Canada retains their 63rd and current International Hockey Lineal Championship, which they won from Switzerland just before the World Championships, and retained in their opening victory against the Czechs. This marks the first-ever IHLC meeting between Canada and Slovenia, who fail to capture the IHLC in their seventh attempt in team history, and in their first attempt since the 2013 World Championships. Canada will now play Belarus tomorrow, continuing on their war path through Paris with the IHLC in tow.
01:24 – PEN – Muršak, hooking
04:30 – GOAL – Barrie (Simmonds, Konecny)
04:59 – PEN – Matheson, hooking
14:36 – GOAL – MacKinnon (Skinner, Barrie)
16:14 – GOAL – Point (Konecny)
24:44 – GOAL – MacKinnon (Giroux, de Haan)
25:14 – PEN – Muršak, high sticking
25:43 – PP GOAL – MacKinnon (Marner, Barrie)
28:25 – PEN – MacKinnon, slashing
29:23 – PEN – Demers, holding
35:44 – GOAL – Muršak (Sabolič, Pretnar)
37:11 – GOAL – Marner (Konecny)
37:48 – PEN – Goličič, embellishment
37:48 – PEN – de Haan, interference
47:07 – GOAL – Skinner (MacKinnon, Barrie)
54:42 – PEN – Rodman, hooking
57:55 – EA GOAL – Urbas (Kranjc, Pretnar)
W: Johnson (12-14)
L: Krošelj (44-51)
SHOTS ON GOAL
19+15+17 = 51
6+5+3 = 14
Goaltenders: Chad Johnson, Calvin Pickard. Defence: Tyson Barrie, Calvin de Haan, Jason Demers, Michael Matheson, Josh Morrissey, Marc-Édouard Vlasic (A). Forwards: Matt Duchene (A), Claude Giroux (C), Alex Killorn, Travis Konecny, Ryan O’Reilly, Nathan MacKinnon, Mitchell Marner, Brayden Point, Mark Scheifele, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jeff Skinner.
Goaltenders: Gašper Krošelj, Matija Pintarič. Defence: Blaž Gregorc, Sabahudin Kovačević (A), Aleš Kranjc, Matic Podlipnik, Klemen Pretnar, Mitja Robar, Andrej Tavželj, Luka Vidmar. Forwards: Boštjan Goličič, Anže Kuralt, Jan Muršak (C), Aleš Mušič, Ken Ograjenšek, Nik Pem, David Rodman, Robert Sabolič, Rok Tičar, Jan Urbas (A), Miha Verlič.