HALIFAX – Playing a World Championship game on home ice for the first time in the 100-year history of the IIHF, Canada beat Slovenia 5-1 at the Halifax Metro Centre. Dany Heatley led the way with a hat trick.
The game was played on the smaller North American ice for the first time and featured the two-referee system for the first time. The outcome was never in doubt such was the puck domination of the hosts, but goalie Robert Kristan, wearing vintage brown pads, kept the game close with a vintage performance against a team stacked with talent. For Slovenia, it was Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings who generated most of the attack and scored the lone goal.
"We knew this was going to be tough because we were playing against the world champions," a fatigued Kristan said after. "It was hard for us to play against Canada for our first game. It was hard watching those red jerseys all over the ice."
It didn't take long for Canada to get on the board thanks to a nice play down low by Dany Heatley. He took a pass from Ryan Getzlaf in the corner and was allowed to skate in front of Kristan unmolested. Kristan managed to make the save, but Dan Hamhuis was right there to bang home the rebound.
The dominating line of Rick Nash-Dany Heatley-Ryan Getzlaf doubled the lead just 41 seconds into the second period when Nash rifled a perfect pass across the crease to Heatley, parked at the back door of Kristan. He made no mistake from close range.
Martin St. Louis made it 3-0 on a slapshot on the power play with another delayed penalty on the way. Duncan Keith fired a low shot as goalie Cam Ward was racing to the bench for an extra attacker, but before he got there St. Louis deftly touched the shot past a beleaguered Kristan at 10:18. It was Canada's 33rd shot on goal to just eight from their opponents.
Moments later, Jason Spezza scored, but the goal was disallowed and Staal was sent to the penalty box for goalie interference. The Slovenians then capitalized on a lengthy 5-on-3 after Keith was called for high sticking. Kopitar took a beautiful pass from Tomaz Razingar from in close and beat Ward with a quick shot over the glove.
Canada was relentless, though, and Heatley scored his second of the game when his weak shot from the side of the net dribbled past an exhuasted Kristan who had made several spectacular saves in a matter of seconds.
"Fortunately, we didn't take them lightly," Spezza said. "Our effort was there and everybody backchecked hard and did a lot of the little things you sometimes forget to do in a game that's a little more wide open like this."
The third period was dominated by the Canadians, although they eased up on Kristan and simply played along the perimter inside the Slovenian end for much of the period. Heatley clinched the hat trick midway through the period.
The Canadians used their superior speed to get to most of the loose pucks, their strength to create turnovers deep in the Slovenian end, and their superior skill to hammer Kristan with 65 shots. The over-matched Slovenians were forced to take seven minor penalties, mostly in attempts to slow down their faster opponents.
"We worked hard, and we played the way we needed to," Canada's coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We didin't play using skill ahead of work, but work ahead of skill."
Canada's next game is against Latvia on Sunday afternoon while Slovenia takes on the United States in the late game that day.