PARIS â€” Four different Canadian players scored and captain Claude Giroux had two assists as the two-time defending champions opened the IIHF World Hockey Championship with a 4-1 victory over the Czech Republic on Friday.
Ryan O’Reilly, Mike Matheson, Tyson Barrie and Jeff Skinner scored for Canada. Lukas Radil had the lone goal for the Czechs.
The Czechs, boosted by the lively crowd at the AccorHotels Arena, recorded the first six shots of the game on netminder Calvin Pickard. The Canadians withstood the early attack and opened the scoring at 6:09 when O’Reilly beat netminder Petr Mrazek after taking a pass from behind the net by Mark Scheifele.
“That was a great play by Scheifs,” said O’Reilly, a veteran of Canada’s last two winning worlds teams “He’s fast, made a strong play to me and I just got lucky trying to get it off to the net. Luckily for me, it went in.”
“I heard O’Reilly calling for it,” added Scheifele, who was also part of Canada’s team in 2016. “I knew I had a read on the puck and made a play from there.”
Canada extended the lead with a power-play goal just 55 seconds into the second period. Matheson threaded a shot from the point through a crowd to make it 2-0.
The Czechs halved the lead with 7:19 left to play in the third period. Radil scored a power-play goal, beating Pickard on the open side, to spoil the shutout.
“They earned that goal,” said Pickard, who was named Canada’s player of the game after making 28 saves. “They made a good play across, hit the post, went back to the other guy. I can live with that one.
“Tyson (Barrie) got a huge goal right after that to make it 3-1 and kind of break up their momentum. It was definitely nice to answer that.”
Barrie restored Canada’s two-goal lead 2:09 after the Czech goal, then Skinner added an empty-net goal with 42.1 seconds left.
Czech forward Roman Cervenka was forced to leave the game after taking a puck to the face in the third period.
Pickard helped Canada win gold last year in Russia. He allowed one goal in two games as the backup to Cam Talbot.
“It’s definitely a privilege,” Pickard said of his starting assignment. “I wanted to make the most of it.”
Canada’s head coach Jon Cooper earned the win in his first-ever World Championship assignment, and said he enjoyed the experience. “The Czech fans-it was really fun to be a part of. The chants and the cheers, it’s a really really cool environment. A tribute to the fans and the fans of Paris that came out.
“It was a fun environment for two countries that aren’t France. I’m really excited to go through the rest of this.”
Canada will take on Slovenia on Sunday.
Carol Schram, The Canadian Press