Hockey

Mason, Canada top Czech Republic

Canada's penalty killers were as efficient as their Swiss-German hosts at the 2009 world hockey championships on Thursday, and when they did slip up, goalie Chris Mason was nothing short of brilliant in a 5-1 victory.

One by one Canadians marched off to the penalty box.

At one point they took six straight minors, which gave the Czech Republic plenty of chances to get back in the game.

But Canada’s penalty killers were as efficient at their Swiss-German hosts at the 2009 world hockey championship on Thursday and when they did slip up goalie Chris Mason was just short of brilliant.

Three straight power-play goals, including two by NHL rookie Steve Stamkos, powered Canada to a 5-1 win in Kloten and their fourth consecutive victory overall. Next up in the second of four rounds of competition is Norway on Sunday.

The Czechs represented the best opponent the Canadians had played to date and were slightly better when the teams played 5-on-5, but it was special teams that did them in.

Stamkos scored on the power play at 7:20 and 13:40 of the opening period. Shea Weber then ripped a blistering slot shot that was in the net way before goalie Jakub Stepanek got his catching glove in position for a third straight power-play goal at 17:05.

Weber’s goal meant that eight of Canada’s last 10 goals came when they had a manpower advantage.

With the power play firing on all cylinders, Canada’s other special team unit showed they were equal to the task. They killed off a 5-on-3 disadvantage that lasted 82 seconds.

"We kept them wide and they had a hard time getting to the net," said defenceman Chris Phillips, who had a strong game.

It definitely helped that Mason was ready.

Mason faced Hungary in his first start ever at the world tournament on Sunday and he barely worked up a sweat. This time out, he stopped 44 shots, and allowed a goal by Edmonton Oilers forward Ales Hemsky with less than three minutes left in the game to lose the shutout.

"I felt really good. Against Hungary I did not get many shots during the game and when you sit around waiting for a shot, it is a different feeling," said Mason. "I saw more shots and it was easier to get in the game."

Before the game, Mason said he and the Canadian defencmen talked about how to defend against a power play and they reminded each other to communicate on the ice, especially since many of them have never played with their defensive partners before.

But Mason warned that Canada can’t keep living off special teams.

"If there is one area we have to get better at, it is 5-on-5," he said. "It could be better. We know we have scored a lot of goals on the power play, and 5-on-5 we could be better."

The Czechs had Jaromir Jagr in the lineup and the former NHL star who played in Russia this season made his presence known. There were times he logged the puck back like he did when he terrorized NHL goalies and won five NHL scoring titles.

It was obvious the Czecks suffered a serious blow when Stamkos rifled two straight power play goals to get Canada off to a fast start.

"To get the goals early set them back on their heels," said Stamkos. "To get an early lead is dejecting for them and set the tone.

"But for the whole second half of the game we were in the penalty box so give credit to the penalty killers and our goalie."

Canada’s reinforcements – defencemen Braydon Coburn and Marc-Edouard Vlisac and forward Travis Zajac – are to arrive over the weekend.

Canada has now filled its 25 roster spots.

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