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Spezza leads Canada past Latvia 6-1 to open world hockey championship

05/01/2015 12:32 EDT | Updated 05/01/2016 05:12 EDT
PRAGUE - Jason Spezza led Canada to a triumphant start at the world hockey championship on Friday.

The Dallas Stars forward had two goals and an assist to lead Canada past Latvia 6-1 in the tournament opener for both squads at the O2 Arena.

"We're so new to each other, we're trying to build chemistry," Spezza said. "We talked every turn we came to the bench, we tried to figure out our systems, we tried to figure out the big ice, to use these games as building blocks for your team.

"Even if we got up early, we stuck to our plan and got better as the game went on."

Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene, both of the Colorado Avalanche, Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby and Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings also scored for Canada. Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith stopped 16 shots.

"It was pretty good," said Crosby. "We skated well and generated some good chances."

Crosby finished with a goal and an assist. The team captain scored on a penalty shot late in the third period to round out the scoring.

"I don't get many of those," Crosby said. "It's nice to get one."

Kaspars Daugavins replied for Latvia, which was outshot 42-17.

The Canadians took control early with a three-goal first period. MacKinnon opened the scoring at 9:57, Spezza made it 2-0 at 13:04 and Duchene tallied at 14:11.

However, Canada coach Todd McLellan wasn't entirely pleased with his team's play in the period.

"We weren't happy with the neutral-zone play in the first five-to-seven minutes," he said. "Smitty had to make some saves early to settle us down.

"After that, we figured some things out. We all bought into it and it allowed us to play in the offensive zone."

Toffoli put the Canadians ahead 4-0 at 2:20 of the second period before Spezza scored again at 3:04. Canada outshot Latvia 19-5 in the frame.

"I thought we had the puck a lot in the offensive zone, which allows us to have a short change and we got ahead of them in those areas," McLellan said. "Once it got to 5-0 we were passing when we probably should have been shooting but we can fix that."

Daugavins scored Latvia's lone goal at 12:06 of the third. Crosby converted a penalty shot at 19:37.

The challenge Canada traditionally faces on the international stage is bringing players from various domestic or pro teams together as a cohesive unit quickly. But McLellan saw plenty Friday to be encouraged about.

"It looked like we played as a team and not a group of individuals so that was very important for us," he said. "The timeframe that this tournament is played in is very short and you've got to come together as a group.

"We're not shooting for the stars in the beginning, we're trying to get better every day. That's kind of a theme we've adopted and I think we've used our six or seven days now together doing that."

Canada resumes preliminary round action Sunday against Germany and McLellan welcomes the day off.

"We'll have a quick practice, regroup and get ready to go," he said.

In other games, the United States beat 2014 finalist Finland 5-1. Defending champion Russia opened with a 6-2 victory over Norway, and Sweden beat host Czech Republic 6-5 in a shootout.

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With files from The Associated Press.

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