MINSK, Belarus - Penalties remain a problem, but talent was enough to help Team Canada avoid a historically bad start at the world hockey championship.
Joel Ward scored twice as Canada came back from an early deficit and pulled away for a 4-1 victory over Slovakia on Saturday at Chizhovka-Arena.
Canada, which lost to France in a shootout in the opener, had never lost the first two games at this tournament since it began sending NHL players in 1977.
Cody Hodgson and captain Kevin Bieksa each had a goal for Canada. Goaltender Ben Scrivens, making his first career international start, got the victory. It's unclear if he'll start Canada's next game Monday against the Czech Republic.
Karol Sloboda scored Slovakia's only goal, doing so on the power play.
Pushing and shoving started early, mostly when Canadian players poked at the puck underneath Laco's pads. After Kyle Turris and Matt Read did it 39 seconds in, a scrum started behind the net, and Jonathan Huberdeau took a beating when he tried 2:31 in.
Scrivens was forced to make a big stop on an initial shot by Satan and then another a few seconds later, and on the other end Laco held Slovakia in it while Canada failed on all three of its first-period power plays.
With Canada unable to take advantage of those chances, the same parade to the penalty box that hurt against France returned. Coach Dave Tippett decried bad penalties taken by veterans on Saturday morning, then at night Alex Burrows, Braydon Coburn and Nazem Kadri each took one in the second period.
Kadri's high-sticking penalty at 10:38 gave Slovakia the break it had been looking for. After point-to-point passing, Sloboda's shot got appeared to go in off Scrivens' glove at the 12:24 mark with former NHLer Miroslav Satan screening in front.
Satan's goal set off a fervent Slovak-dominated crowd at Chizhovka-Arena that spent much of the game whistling and chanting.
At a television timeout later in the second, those fans serenaded their goaltender with supportive "Yah-an Lah-ko" chants. Laco was playing well in shutting out the Canadians until a few minutes remained in the period.
Canada broke through at 17:21 when Ward managed to tip Jason Garrison's shot from the point. The redirection goal that quieted the crowd was Ward's first in a Team Canada jersey.
Then, 7:07 into the third, Hodgson gave Canada the lead. Kadri got the puck into the offensive zone and fed it to Hodgson, who used a Slovak defender as a screen and beat Laco clean with a perfect wrist shot.
Bieksa added the insurance goal at 17:56 of the third on a shot that tipped off a Slovak player's stick and over Laco. Then Ward had his second at 18:49.
Canada has four points with five preliminary-round games left, against the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Sweden and Norway.
NOTES — Scrivens started the second game of the tournament as planned after James Reimer played against France based on seniority. ... Sean Monahan played more in the first two periods than he did the entire game against France as he split time with Mark Scheifele as the fourth-line centre.