Forgive Pascal Leclaire for brushing off another shutout. He’s had enough of them over the past eight months.
The former Halifax Mooseheads goaltender returned to the Metro Centre for the first time since 2001 yesterday and earned a 30-save shutout to lift Canada to a 7-0 win over Latvia at the International Ice Hockey Federation world championship.
Leclaire, a Columbus Blue Jackets stopper, finished second in the NHL with nine shutouts this season. The 25-year-old had never had more than two shutouts in a single season.
“Shutouts … Sometimes they hit a couple of posts at good times, and it’s a good story for the papers, but it’s not really important,” said Leclaire. “I just want to win games. I’ve never been known for shutouts. I don’t really care about them, either.”
Perhaps the third-year NHLer should put more stock in them. Even Hockey Hall of Famer Patrick Roy took 19 seasons before he finally registered a nine-shutout campaign.
Either way, Leclaire’s efforts earned him player-of-the-game honours before an appreciative crowd of 7,831.
A quick-strike offence helped put Canada on the road to victory early. Patrick Sharp and Mike Green scored in the opening 3:45 to dampen the spirits of a loud, drum-beating contingent of Latvian fans, and three more goals in the opening 2:42 of the second period gave Canada an insurmountable 6-0 lead.
From there, Latvia came on strong, with most of its shots and scoring chances coming in the final 30 minutes.
“They were a lot better than we expected,” said Leclaire, whose strong showing could help him earn the starting nod over Cam Ward for Canada’s next game. “It would have been easier for them to (pack) their bags and go home.
“It was a busier afternoon than I thought it would be but it’s good. We got the win and that’s what we came for.”
Canada, which also beat Slovenia 5-1 on Friday, has been dominant in the early going. The line of Dany Heatley, Rick Nash and Ryan Getzlaf — which averages 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds — has combined for six goals 10 assists.
“The best part is, we still have two or three other lines that still have yet to get going,” captain and third-liner Shane Doan said. “That’s what makes Canada so dangerous.”
Canada plays the United States tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.
“We’re going to get a real test of where we stand,” said Nash, who had a two-goal game against Latvia.
Heatley, Chris Kunitz and Martin St. Louis also scored for Canada.