HALIFAX – Wow. Wearing their new sweaters that in part pay homage to the Edmonton Mercurys of 1951-52, Canada stormed out to a 3-0 first-period lead and never looked back, whipping Latvia by a final score of 7-0. It was the country's 11th straight win in World Championship competition going back to last year's perfect 9-0-0 record. Pascal Leclaire stopped 30 shots for the shutout.
The line of Rick Nash-Dany Heatley - Ryan Getzlaf might well look good together in Vancouver in two years' time at the Olympics. Today, they accounted for three goals and eight total points. Heatley led the charge with a goal and three assists, while Nash had two goals and Getzlaf two helpers. By the time this tournament is over, the "RDR" line might well be called the greatest forward unit ever to play for Canada at the World Championships.
"Our chemistry is good," Nash said, "and each game it will get better. We're still learning and getting comfortable with each other."
The Latvians were also impressively attired in their dark blue sweaters with broad white V-neck to honour their teams of the 1930s.
Canada started out like a house on fire, taking control of the puck in the Latvian end almost from the opening faceoff and not relinquishing it until the linesman fished it out of the net after the first goal at 2:35.
Defenceman Ed Jovanovski fired a shot from the point that was blocked in front, but Jamal Mayers made a cute little pass in a crowd to Patrick Sharp at the side of the net. He made no mistake.
Just 70 seconds later, the Canadians made it 2-0 when Mike Green took a perfect backhanded saucer pass along the right boards from Dany Heatley. He went in alone and beat Edgars Masalskis cleanly.
It took another ten minutes for them to get the third goal but it was worth the wait. On another lengthy stay inside the Latvian end, Getzlaf made a pass from the side boards almost clear to the other side where Heatley one-timed it beautifully. Masalskis had no chance on that one.
"They came out a little timid, but once they got going they were a little dangerous," defenceman Mike Green noted.
Latvian forward Herberts Vasiljevs agreed. "You could really see the difference out there. We were just trying to contain them, but we caught our game in the second period. We were still down, but we were working hard."
The best chance of the period for the Latvians came near the end when Mikelis Redlihs broke down the right wing and cut in on goal on his off wing. He tried to score through Pascal Leclaire's pads, but the goalie shut the five-hole in time.
The big three started the scoring spree again early in the second period on the power play as Heatley, parked to the side of the net, feathered a beautiful pass to Nash in front to make it 4-0. A minute later, St. Louis made it an even five on another nice pass to the side of the net, this time from Jason Spezza. When Chris Kunitz ripped a shot over Masalskis's glove less than a minute later, the goalie was pulled in favour of Sergejs Naumovs.
The change settled the Latvians down for a while, but another sensational pass by Getzlaf and diving shot by Nash made it 7-0 midway through the second. Canada took its collective foot off the accelerator after that.
The game was also good news for another reason. The Halifax Metro Centre was sold out and full, even though the game clashed directly with the Pittsburgh-New York Rangers playoff game. The Penguins' captain, Sidney Crosby is a hero in Nova Scotia, so any worries about the World Championship not succeeding in Canada because of a scheduling overlap with the Stanley Cup playoffs can be silenced.
Canada closes out its round robin in with a showdown against USA on Tuesday afternoon. The winner will likely finish atop the Group B standings. The Latvians play Slovenia in the night game that day in a game that will likely have important ramifications for the Relegation Round.