Czech Republic 0 - Canada 3
TAVARES' PAIR LEADS CANADA TO TOURNAMENT-RECORD 19TH STRAIGHT WIN
PARDUBICE, Czech Republic – John Tavares (Oakville, ON/Oshawa, OHL) scored two power-play goals, Steven Stamkos (Unionville, ON/Sarnia, OHL) had three assists and Jonathan Bernier (Laval, QC/Lewiston, QMJHL) was brilliant in net, making 41 saves, to lead Canada to a 3-0 triumph over the Czech Republic in the first day of competition at the 2008 IIHF World Junior Championship on Wednesday.
The Canadians have now won a record 19 straight games at the World Juniors, surpassing their own record of 18 consecutive victories set from 1994-97.
Canada, the three-time defending gold medalist, also ran its unbeaten streak against the Czechs to 11 games, including nine triumphs.
Playing in front of a partisan crowd, the Czechs came out flying in the first period and had the better scoring chances early on but Bernier – named Canada's Player of the Game – stood his ground and was the difference. The Lewiston netminder is stingy when it comes to giving up rebounds and the Czechs had virtually no opportunity to convert on second chances.
"We didn't have the start we wanted. They were flying but he (Bernier) was amazing," said Matthew Halischuk (Mississauga, ON/Kitchener, OHL), who also scored for the Canadians. "He is so calm back there and does a great job for us."
Bernier was particularly sharp when the Czechs had a two-man advantage for 31 seconds in the first period, but his best save of the game came in the seventh minute of play of the opening period when Jacub Voracek, who plays for the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads, intercepted a soft pass for a short breakaway, Bernier came out to challenge his Czech opponent and foiled him with a blocker save.
Shawn Matthias (Mississauga, ON/Belleville, OHL) was robbed of a goal by netminder Michael Neuvirth, a member of the OHL's Windsor Spitfires, early in the second period.
Matthias was hovering at the lip of the crease, waiting to pounce on a rebound, and when the puck came to him he whipped a wrist shot that Neuvirth came across the crease nab with his glove.
The Canadians got on the scoreboard at 11:21 of the second on a power play when Tavares completed a superb three-way passing play that was started when Stamkos sent a cross-ice pass to defenceman Logan Pyett (Milestone, SK/Regina, WHL).
Pyett's tape-to-tape pass was deflected into the Czech net by Tavares, the youngest player on Canada's roster.
Stamkos earned his second assist of the game when Halischuk stuffed a rebound into the Czech net at 3:57 of the third period to ice the win for Canada.
"Stamkos made a great play and I was just there and I kept whacking at the puck," said Halischuk. "It was a big goal for us and it's great to get the win."
Tavares and Stamkos combined once again for Canada's third goal at 11:53 of the final period to complete the scoring.
Tavares, Stamkos and Bernier all made their IIHF World Junior Championship debuts in the win.
Both Tavares (2009 eligible) and Stamkos (2008 eligible) are still auditioning for NHL teams, while Bernier, a first-round pick (11th overall) of the Los Angeles Kings in 2006, became the tenth Canadian goaltender to record a shutout in his World Junior debut, the first since Rejean Beauchemin recorded a 9-0 win over Germany at the 2005 tournament in North Dakota.
Canada has little time to rest. They play Slovakia on Thursday afternoon and then face Sweden on Saturday.
"We played them in a pre-tournament game and beat them," said Halischuk of the Slovakians. "They're a hard-working team and we'll be ready for them. We'll put this win behind us and get ready for the Slovaks pretty quick."