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Canada Gets First Win Over Slovakia

by Lucas Aykroyd / Winnipeg Jets

The crowd wasn't on their side, but the Canadians didn't care as they beat Slovakia 4-1 on Saturday night. Cody Hodgson scored the third-period winner.

With 12:53 left, Hodgson used Slovak defenceman Martin Marincin as a screen and zinged a wrister past goalie Jan Laco’s glove.

Joel Ward scored twice for Canada, Kevin Bieksa added a single, and Jason Garrison had a pair of assists.

Karol Sloboda replied for Slovakia.

Canadian goalie Ben Scrivens made 23 saves to win his -- and Canada's -- first game, while Lacos had 24 stops for Slovakia.

A drum-pounding, chanting pro-Slovak crowd left disappointed after their team remained winless through two games.

It was the first World Championship meeting between Canada and Slovakia since the 4-3 Slovak quarter-final win in Helsinki in 2012. Canada retains an all-time head-to-head edge with 10 wins, two ties, and two losses.

Both teams were coming off tough opening defeats, Canada falling 3-2 to France in a shootout shocker and Slovakia blowing a late lead versus the neighboring rival Czech Republic to lose 3-2. The Canadians mustered a significantly better effort here.

There was a tinge of bitterness at Chizhovka Arena from the get-go. Multiple scrums erupted around Laco’s crease.

Canada got the first three power plays on obstruction fouls as the Slovaks struggled at times with the pace. The Canadians couldn’t score, but Bieksa and Troy Brouwer established the red-and-white squad’s physical presence with crushing hits in the offensive zone.

It was Canada’s turn to run into penalty trouble in the second period with consecutive tripping minors to Alex Burrows and Brayden Coburn.

Canada nearly capitalized shorthanded on a ghastly Slovak giveaway. Sloboda left a backhand drop pass that Kyle Turris gobbled up to burst in solo, but he couldn’t outwit Laco.

The Slovaks picked up their intensity and Nazem Kadri was called for a high stick next to the Slovak bench. That broke the game open. With 7:36 left in the middle frame, Sloboda’s blue line drive found its way past Scrivens for a 1-0 lead on the power play.

Canada responded with pressure, and it paid off. At 17:21, Garrison whipped a shot from above the left faceoff circle that Ward deflected high past Laco to tie the game.

After Hodgson's third-period go-ahead goal, Bieksa gave Canada some breathing room when his heavy slapper from the right side bounced up, over and past Laco to make it 3-1 with 2:04 remaining.

Less than a minute later, Ward rounded out the scoring when he converted a nice Burrows feed from behind the goal line.

Canada will face its toughest test on yet with the Czechs, while Slovakia faces France that day.

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