HELSINKI – A tournament-opening victory at the IIHF World Hockey Championship came with more injury concerns for Canada.
Alex Burrows left a little more than six minutes into the second period of a 3-2 victory over Slovakia on Friday after suffering an apparent head injury during an inadvertent collision with an opponent.
Otherwise, coach Brent Sutter must have liked most of what he saw from a team playing its first game together against a hungry opponent. The Slovaks need a good finish at the world championship to secure a spot in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Canada displayed a balanced offensive attack and received goals from Jamie Benn, Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd. Cam Ward was sharp in goal.
Tomas Tatar and Milan Bartovic replied for the Slovaks.
Aside from the Burrows injury, there were only a few brief moments of concern for Canada.
After Benn opened the scoring in the first period thanks to a lovely backhand pass from Canadian captain Ryan Getzlaf, Tatar beat Ward short side to tie the score 1-1 early in the second. That seemed to give the Slovaks some life. They kept pushing and received some good fortune at the other end with both Ladd and Jay Bouwmeester ringing shots off the post.
It only got worse for Canada with Burrows being sent to the dressing room following a collision in the offensive zone. He appeared woozy while being helped off the ice and didn’t return. Evander Kane jumped into his spot on a line with Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
But Eberle managed to restore the momentum Canada enjoyed early on with a goal Slovak netminder Peter Hamerlik would like back. He scored on a wrist shot from the lower circle at 12:30.
Ladd made it 3-1 less than three minutes later after converting a nice pass from Ryan O’Reilly. A Bartovic shot through traffic narrowed that lead early in the third period, but Slovakia didn’t get many quality chances to tie it.
Canada hoped the game was the start of a long journey to gold — it takes 10 games to win the championship — and general manager Kevin Lowe will be looking to make roster additions in the coming days.
Junior defenceman Ryan Murray was activated against Slovakia to give the team six blue-liners. It quickly went down to 12 forwards with the knock to Burrows. There was no immediate word on the extent of his injury.
Canada has already lost defenceman P.K. Subban, who was sent home after suffering a knee injury. Blue-liner Marc Methot is also nursing a minor groin issue.
Notes: Ward got his first start for Canada since the gold-medal game of the 2008 world championship … Canada has beat Slovakia on six straight occasions … The last time Canada lost its opening game of the world championship was 1978 … Murray was paired with former Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith … Evander Kane and Ladd are the first Winnipeg Jets to appear for Canada in the tournament since Nelson Emerson in 1994 … Announced attendance at Hartwall Arena was 6,400.
The Canadian Press