Dany Heatley scored a hat trick, Canada opened the International Ice Hockey Federation world championship with a win, and Slovenian star Anze Kopitar got his wish.
Just about all involved walked away smiling from Friday’s tournament-opener at the Halifax Metro Centre, as Canada beat Slovenia 5-1 before a quiet crowd of 7,900.
Slovenian goalie Robert Kristan kicked out an astonishing 60 shots to help Kopitar, the team’s only NHLer, make good on his pre-game goal of keeping Canada to five goals.
“We could have had 10 tonight,” said Heatley, who surpassed Marcel Dionne for Canada’s all-time goal-scoring lead with the 21st, 22nd and 23rd tallies of his career.
“Their goalie played really well. It was a lot of fun and we’ve got to get better every game to get ready for Latvia (Sunday).”
It was Canada’s first game as host of the tournament, which is in its 100th year. Kristan, wearing old-school leather pads that were throwbacks to the 1980s, stole the show with his acrobatics and unorthodox style to keep it relatively close.
Canada had 50 shots by the end of the second period and a 4-1 lead, but Kopitar scored a moral victory for Slovenia with his tally on a 5-on-3 at 12:19 of the second period.
It was a tic tac toe passing play and the Los Angeles Kings star finished it off to the right side of Cam Ward.
“It was kind of a mini goal of ours (to keep Canada to five goals),” the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder said. “We kept it pretty close.”
Kopitar deflected credit to Kristan.
“He made a couple of saves that everybody on the bench thought would go in,” Kopitar said. “He’s a big part of our team and hopefully he can play like that the whole tournament.”
Heatley and his heavyweight line with Ryan Getzlaf and Rick Nash — who average 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds — dominated in combining for three goals and five assists.
Their strength on the puck, touch down low and ability to cycle will serve Canada well against stronger opponents.
“If they had a little bit more size, it would probably help them out,” Canada captain Shane Doan wisecracked. “They were phenomenal. All night, they were taking it to the net.”
Defenceman Dan Hamhuis scored the opener 3:45 into the first period on a rebound. Martin St. Louis added a power-play tally midway through the second period, the only goal scored without Heatley, Nash and Getzlaf on the ice.
Heatley is competing in his fifth world championship.
“I’ve always had fun here and that’s the key,” Heatley said of his success. “Anytime they’ve asked me to come it’s been an honour. Just getting to know different guys, playing with different guys — I really enjoy that part of the game.”
NOTES: Final shots were 65-23 for Canada … Ward stopped Kopitar on a third-period breakaway … Mike Green was the seventh defenceman who played top power-play minutes and Chris Kunitz served as the 13th forward … Canada’s next game is Sunday at 4:30 p.m. against Latvia. Former Halifax Mooseheads goalie Pascal Leclaire will start in goal.