Denmark equalled its team high for the most goals scored in one in World Championship game, a 9-0 shellacking of Great Britain three years ago to the day in Kosice, Slovakia. Kazakhstan's most lopsided loss ever was 10-0 to the U.S. on 15 May, 2010 in Cologne, Germany.
"This was a huge win for us," said Danish goalie Sebastian Dahm, who made 25 saves. "It was the first game of the tournament, so it's always important to get a good start, but if you want to look ahead for a quarter-finals chance, this was a key game for us. We're thrilled we were able to not make this a tight game and we can look forward with optimistic eyes instead of worried eyes."
The Danish power play was red-hot, cashing in four times, including Joachim Blichfeld's hat trick. Oliver Larsen and Frederik Storm had a goal and an assist apiece. Captain Peter Regin, Patrick Bjorkstrand, Felix Scheel, and Julian Jakobsen also scored for Denmark.
Markus Lauridsen racked up four assists, while Nikolaj Ehlers chipped in three assists and Mathias Bau had two assists.
"It’s nice to have the crowds back in the rink," said Jakobsen. "We missed that. It’s about giving the fans a good time. We showed up today and got a win."
Kirill Savetski had the lone goal for Kazakhstan. Simply put, the Kazakhs were outskated, outplayed, and doomed by their many defensive errors.
"We have a lot of work to do," said Kazakhstan's Curtis Valk. "Our team took too many penalties to begin with. They had a good power play and scored a couple of goals on it. We have to start the game better."
Coach Heinz Ehlers' team is hungry to build on the historic seventh-place finish they recorded in their Olympic debut in Beijing in February. They have never been relegated since returning to the World Championship’s top division in 2003, when the tournament was also staged in Finland.
"It's not exactly the same group, but what we did in February was a big thing for hockey in Denmark, and something we want to build on here," said defenceman Nicholas Jensen.
Kazakhstan also entered this tournament with optimism after finishing in tenth place at last year’s Worlds in Riga, an all-time peak for the former Soviet republic. But this certainly wasn’t the start the squad featuring 13 players from the KHL’s Barys Nur-Sultan was looking for.
Denmark outshot Kazakhstan 37-26.
Kazakh starting goalie Andrei Shutov, a 24-year-old Ust-Kamenogorsk product, was pulled in the second period after conceding five goals. Shutov had just one previous World Championship game under his belt, a 4-2 loss to eventual champion Canada at the 2021 tournament in Riga, Latvia.
Kazakhstan played without star defenceman Darren Dietz. The 28-year-old import from Medicine Hat, Alberta, named the KHL’s top blueliner in 2019, is coming off his first Gagarin Cup title with CSKA Moscow. He also sat out the pre-tournament exhibition games against Latvia.
"Darren is a good player who brings it both offensively and defensively for us, but it’s no excuse for a 9-1 loss," said Valk.
On Sunday, Denmark gets a tougher test against Switzerland, while Kazakhstan looks to bounce back versus France.
"We have to make some adjustments and prepare for the next game and get better," said Nicholas Jensen. "But we got three points today, so we're happy."
At 3:59, Scheel exploited a mid-ice Kazakh defensive zone turnover. Amid confusion, he jumped on the loose puck and zinged it high past Shutov on the stick side.
Kazakh coach Yuris Mikhailis called his timeout to regroup, but to no avail.
Just 52 seconds later, Blichfeld capitalized on Denmark’s first power play with Anton Sagadeyev off for tripping. Ehlers stepped off the half-wall and skimmed a perfect cross-ice to Blichfeld, and the 23-year-old from the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda beat Shutov with a beautiful high shot.
"When you get a start like we had today, you just get so much confidence," said Dahm. "And they got into a hole that was tough to dig out of. Our strength is our defence, so it's not easy to come back against us in a game like that."
When Danish assistant captain Jesper Jensen Aabo took his team’s first minor, Dahm barred the door. He was perfectly positioned to stymie a dangerous shot by naturalized Kazakh defender Viktor Svedberg from the right faceoff dot.
In the second period, Storm gave Denmark a four-goal lead just 25 seconds into their second man advantage, waltzing past the Kazakh defence to tuck a backhander past Shutov at 2:26. In February, Storm made headlines with a pair of goals in Denmark's 5-3 Olympic win over Switzerland.
At 6:22, it was 5-0 Denmark. Jakobsen was left unguarded in front of Kazakhstan's net and Mikkel Aagard came out of the corner to slip a clever pass to him, which he easily converted.
Mikhailis' prompt replacement of Shutov with backup Ilya Rumyantsev made little difference. Dahm got a little lucky moments later when Kazakh defender Valeri Orekhov walked in and rang one off the iron. But the Kazakhs certainly didn't have the firepower to come back.
Just before the midway mark, Blichfeld stretched Denmark's lead to 6-0 with another power play goal, a virtual mirror image of his first one, fed again by Ehlers.
"We played into our strengths and were sharp on the power play when we needed to be," Dahm said.
With 24 seconds left in the second period, it was 7-0 Denmark after a pinching Larsen blew a heavy center-point drive past Rumyantsev.
In the third period, Regin made it 8-0 at 0:43. The Danish captain scored in tight off the rush after receiving a pretty spinaround pass from Oliver Lauridsen.
Just past the two-minute mark of the third, Dahm preserved his shutout with a groin-stretching right pad save reminiscent of Mike Richter on Alikhan Asetov's short breakaway attempt. A couple of minutes later, the Danish netminder foiled Yegor Petukhov on another clean break.
At 10:03, Blichfeld completed his hat trick with a nice snap shot that beat a screened Rumyantsev.
With 1:23 remaining, Savetski spoiled Dahm's shutout bid with a shorthanded goal off the rush, providing Kazakh supporters with a tiny bit of solace.
"You shake it off as much as you can," said Valk. "There are little things we have to do better. We need to come out with a better attitude and a better effort."
Denmark’s World Championship record against Kazakhstan improved to a perfect 3-0. The Danes won 3-2 on 15 May 2006 in Riga on Jesper Damgaard’s late third-period goal on a 5-on-3. On 16 May 2016, Dahm made 18 saves in a 4-1 win in Moscow.