EDITORS NOTE: Flames defenceman Jay Bouwmeester put in 18:42 of ice time in the victory.
HELSINKI, FINLAND -- Canada broke a 1-1 tie with two goals in the latter part of the second period en route to a 3-2 over Slovakia to open the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship for both teams.
Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd got the goals after Jamie Benn had opened the scoring in the first.
Tomas Tatar and Milan Bartovic scored for Slovakia. The last time the Slovaks beat Canada at the senior level was at the 2002 quarter-finals en route to their first and--for now--only gold medal.
“It was a good starting point for us, and now we want to keep getting better," said defenceman Dion Phaneuf. "We know it’s going to get tougher game by game. We have four solid lines, and everybody played extremely hard today. It was a team effort.”
Tonight's game at Hartwall Arena featured just three minor penalties, two to Slovakia.
Scoring chances were few and far between in the first period, but Canada did manage to produce the only goal on a sensational play by newly-minted captain Ryan Getzlaf. He straddled the blue line with the puck and drew several Slovaks to him before slipping a perfect backhand pass to Benn going towards the goal. Benn had only to hang on to the puck and tuck it past Peter Hamerlik at 14:21 for the opening score.
The Slovaks tied the game early in the second period off a giveaway by 18-year-old defenceman Ryan Murray. His stretch pass was picked off at the Slovak blue line by Juraj Mikus, who carried the puck down the left side into the corner. Mikus found Tatar at the faceoff dot and his quick shot beat Cam Ward between the pads.
The goal opened the game, however, and teams played end-to-end hockey the rest of the period, mush to the delight of the fans. Both goalies were tested frequently with quality chances, but it was the Canadians who took advantage of the increased tempo.
Eberle put Canada ahead 2-1 on a shot Hamerik would like to have again. At a bad angle to the goal, Eberle just took a quick shot that skittered through the goalie’s pads and dribbled over the line at 12:30.
Three minutes later, Ryan O’Reilly had a sensational shift to create Canada’s third goal. First, he hounded the Slovak defence to create a turnover in the offensive end, and then he threaded a perfect pass to Ladd in the slot. Ladd ripped a nice shot to the near side over Hamerlik’s shoulder to give Canada a two-goal cushion after 40 minutes.
"We didn’t have a great start," Slovak captain Zdeno Chara said, "but in the second period when we tied the game I thought we played better. We opened up the game when we should have stayed closer defensively.”
Slovakia made the game more interesting with a goal early in the third. Like their first, it came off a pass from the corner to the slot. This time Mario Bliznak made the pass and Bartovic fired a quick shot through traffic to beat Ward and make it 3-2.
Canada incurred its only penalty of the game midway through the final period when Crey Perry took a penalty, but his teammates saved the day with fine penalty killing. Even with Hamerlik on the bench in the final minute the Slovaks couldn't generate any quality chances, and Canada skated off the victors.
Canada plays again tomorrow against the United States while the Slovaks have a day off before playing hosts Finland on May 6.
Courtesy of the IIHF