PARIS, France – Tyson Barrie (Victoria, B.C./Colorado, NHL) and Jeff Skinner (Toronto, Ont./Carolina, NHL) had a goal and an assist apiece, helping Canada’s National Men’s Team to a 4-1 win over the Czech Republic on Friday in the opener for both at the 2017 IIHF World Championship.
Canada, the two-time defending world champion, has now won 20 of its last 21 games at the tournament, and has won five in a row against the Czechs, dating back to the 2010 worlds.
The European side had the edge early, outshooting Canada 10-4, but goaltender Calvin Pickard (Winnipeg, Man./Colorado, NHL) made a handful of big stops to keep the Czechs off the scoreboard.
The Canadians got the scoring started just past the six-minute mark, with Mark Scheifele (Kitchener, Ont./Winnipeg, NHL) doing the work behind the net before centering for Ryan O’Reilly (Varna, Ont./Buffalo, NHL), whose quick shot beat Czech netminder Petr Mrazek for a 1-0 lead.
Mike Matheson (Pointe-Claire, Que./Florida, NHL) doubled the advantage just 55 seconds into the second period, beating Mrazek with a point shot through a maze of bodies on a Canadian power play.
Pickard was the story through 40 minutes, turning aside all 21 shots he faced in the first two periods.
The Czechs finally solved him on a power play at 12:41 of the third, with Lukas Radil knocking in a rebound after Jan Kovar hit the post, but Barrie one-timed in a pass from Travis Konecny (Clachan, Ont./Philadelphia, NHL) to restore the two-goal advantage just over two minutes later.
The Konecny line, along with Brayden Point (Calgary, Alta./Tampa Bay, NHL) and Mitch Marner (Thornhill, Ont./Toronto, NHL), was arguably the most dangerous for the Canadians, despite the trio being just a combined 61 years old.
Skinner capped the scoring in the final minute, finding the empty net with Mrazek on the bench.
The Canadians are off Saturday before returning to the ice Sunday at AccorHotels Arena to face off against Slovenia (6:15 a.m. ET/3:15 a.m. PT). It will be just the fourth meeting between the teams at worlds, with Canada having won the previous three.
“When you get in situations like this, the way it starts is usually not the way it finishes, but we have to have a starting point. We’ll get guys in and out [of the lineup] and get a feel for strengths and weaknesses of players. The one thing is everybody is committed, we’re all excited to play and the first time you put the jersey on it’s pretty exciting.”
– Jon Cooper (Prince George, B.C./Tampa Bay, NHL) Team Canada head coach
Since 1931, Canada was won the world championship 20 times – not counting the years when Olympic Winter Games champions were also considered world champion. The country has also collected 11 silver medals and six bronze in that timespan.