ZURICH-KLOTEN – Canada has delivered a strong and clear message – give us a power play and we will score. The team added three more power-play goals to its totals in the opening period tonight in Kloten en route to an impressive 5-1 win over the Czech Republic.
Steve Stamkos led the way with two goals and an assist while the penalty killers were perfect on eight short-handed situations. Goalie Chris Mason, Canada's player of the game, stopped 44 of 45 shots.
"The guys scored some power-play goals early, and that really helped," Mason said. "We didn't want to play from behind. The guys did a good job keeping them to the outside on their power play."
The win keeps Canada in top position in Group F with 9 points. Finland is second with 6, Belarus has 4 and the Czechs 3.
The onslaught started at 7:20 with the extra man courtesy of Steve Stamkos. Drew Doughty’s point shot hit a group of players in front of goalie Roman Stepanek, and the puck careened to Stamkos off to the side. He merely had to swipe the puck into the open cage to give Canada a 1-0 lead.
The second one was a mess of a play that ended with a beautiful play. Martin St. Louis gave the puck up along the left wing boards deep in the Czech end on another power play, and Jakub Klepis found the puck on his stick. Trying to be too cute, he made a blind pass back toward his goal where Shane Doan stole it and found Stamkos in the slot. With his back to the goal, Stamkos spun, slid the puck under the attempted pokecheck of Stepanek, and lifted the puck over the goalie’s outstretched glove.
Canada had a 2-0 lead and Stamkos had his second two-goal game of the tournament in four outings. The hat-trick man advantage goal came at 17:55 and this wasn’t pretty so much as it was brute strength. Shea Weber moved the puck along the blueline to the middle of the ice and simple ripped a slapshot over Stepanek’s glove for a 3-0 lead. That spelled the end for the goalie who was replaced by Martin Prusek.
The Czechs stormed out of the gate to start the second period and played most of the first four minutes in the Canadian end until another penalty slowed them down. The rest of the period was goalless and listless, the Czechs unable to beat Mason, who was excellent, and Canada content to think defence first.
Just 22 seconds into the third though they increased their lead to 4-0 thanks to a turnover by the Czechs in centre ice. Dany Heatley ripped a slapshot wide but the rebound came back to him and he made no mistake from closer range.
Canada’s penalty killing, which had been solid all night, got to shine midway through the third when the Czechs had a lengthy five-on-three advantage. But Mason and the three players in front of him were perfect. A few minutes later, Mason made his best stop, gloving a sure goal off the stick of Ales Hemsky.
"The puck can bounce off your stick or take lucky bounces," Rostislav Olesz said, "but you have to score on the power play, especially on a five-on-three."
Martin St. Louis made it 5-0 off the rush when Jaromir Jagr made a bad pass just inside the Canadian blueline. Stamkos made a great pass to his Tampa Bay teammate and St. Louis made no mistake.
Hemsky spoiled Mason's shutout at 17:20 on a partial breakaway. It was the first goal Mason has conceded in two games.
"These guys are pretty good on the power play," Olesz said, "and here they have so much more space on the power play to set up. When you have such powerful guys, you're going to play with confidence."
Canada next plays Norway on May 3 while the Czechs face Slovakia on May 2.