ZURICH-KLOTEN – Dany Heatley had two goals and an assist and Steve Stamkos had two goals in his first World Championship game to lead Canada to an easy 6-1 win over Belarus in Kloten.
It’s been a long and crazy year for Steve Stamkos. The first overall draft choice last year had a rocky start to his rookie season with Tampa Bay under coach Barry Melrose, but by the end of the year Melrose was gone and Stamkos was a star. Today he scored twice in the first period to give Canada a cushion it never surrendered.
The Tampa Bay duo of veteran Martin St. Louis and the 19-year-old Stamkos combined for the first goal after just 65 seconds, St. Louis coming down the left wing and firing a hard pass in front. Driving hard to the net, Stamkos had only to get his stick on the ice and redirect it past a helpless Vitali Koval.
"We got on them early with a couple of goals," St. Louis said, adding of his teenage teammate: "I think they key was for him to get comfortable out there. He really wants to be a good player, and he's a fast learner."
"He's patient, and he knows where players are out on the ice," Roloson said. "I have more respect seeing him here because I only saw him once during the regular season."
Stamkos’s second goal was almost the same. It came on the power play on a give-and-go with Drew Doughty. Stamkos passed to Doughty on the left, went to the net and got the return pass which he redirected into the goal for a 2-0 Canada lead after one period. Canada outshot Belarus 18-4 in the opening 20 minutes.
Belarus appeared to get back into the game thanks to a miscue by Roloson behind his own goal. He fumbled the puck and defenceman Luke Schenn left it, thinking Roloson was going to play it. As a result, Mikhail Grabovski put the puck into the empty net. But, video review showed that as he tried to get back into the goal, Roloson knocked the net off its moorings, nullifying the goal.
"I know the net came off, but I didn't mean to do it," Roloson said apologetically.
Grabovski had another great chance midway through the second period, outwaiting Roloson and staring at a wide-open net. But as he shot, the sprawled Roloson recovered to throw a pad in the air and make the highlight-reel save.
Canada exploded for four goals in the third, two from Heatley. The first was an all-Ottawa Senators goal, Heatley faking a shot and sliding the puck to Jason Spezza who roofed it over Koval at 4:27. Another great two-way passing play saw James Neal feed Mike Fisher for an easy goal. Heatley closed out the scoring for Canada with a pair of goals.
Grabovski, by far Belarus’s best player, finally connected late in the game off a Roloson rebound.
"Canada is the best team in the championship, and we have too many young players on the team, especially defence. They were trying their best, but there was too much talent on the other side," Belarus captain Konstantin Koltsov conceded.
Canada’s next game is Sunday afternoon against Hungary while Belarus meets Slovakia earlier that day.