DAVOS, Switzerland – If there were any doubts about Canada’s scoring touch at the Spengler Cup, they were emphatically put to rest Thursday.
Byron Ritchie scored two second-period goals to lead Canada to a convincing 5-0 win over host HC Davos. Canada (1-1) took better advantage of its offensive chances in this contest against the defending tournament champion than it did in its opener, a stunning 2-1 overtime loss to German side Adler Mannheim.
“None of these guys were happy about losing last night and they certainly showed it in their play tonight,” said head coach Doug Shedden. “We put a system in place in the neutral zone that wouldn’t let Davos play their style of hockey.”
John Tavares, Ryan Smyth and Jason Williams had the other goals for Canada, whose roster is a mix of NHLers and national team veterans. Players like Jason Spezza, Sam Gagner and Patrice Bergeron line up will alongside Ritchie, who is in his fourth season of playing in Europe.
“If you ask anyone in the dressing room it doesn’t really matter who scores,” said Ritchie, who plays with Bern of the Swiss league and has also suited up in Sweden and Belarus. “We’re here as a team and we have one goal in mind, and that’s to win the tournament.”
Edmonton Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk, earning the start ahead of Jonathan Bernier, stopped 25 shots for the shutout in his first taste of game action since last April.
“I just wanted to make sure I was being intense, my positioning was right and I stayed patient,” Dubnyk said. “The guys were great defensively. Davos is such an explosive team and we did a good job countering and capitalizing on opportunities.”
Tavares opened the scoring on the power play off a nice feed from Spezza at 9:11 of the first period before Smyth put Canada ahead 2-0 shortly afterwards with an unassisted blast down the left side that went right through Davos netminder Reto Berra at 9:50.
Davos put pressure on Canada late in the period, led by such NHL stars as Patrick Kane and Joe Thornton. But the Canadian defence, anchored by Jason Demers and Carlo Colaiacovo, stood tall.
“They still played a strong game, but we played really well and took the puck out of their forwards’ hands which was key,” said Ritchie.
Ritchie made it 3-0 at 5:05 of the second, converting a setup pass from Josh Holden on an odd man rush for the short-handed goal. Ritchie scored again on a power play at 12:23.
Ritchie came close to scoring a third goal in the period but was stymied in front by Berra.
Despite having little to cheer about, the home crowd remained loud and supportive until the final buzzer in a snug 6,000 seat Vaillant Arena.
Revenge was the driving factor for Ritchie, who played for Canada in last year’s Spengler Cup when the team suffered an 8-1 loss to the hosts.
“To lose the first two games would have been devastating,” Shedden said. “We knew the longer it goes the better we should get, and all the guys know that.”
Ritchie and Berra were named the players of the game for their respective teams.
Canada is off Friday when Davos and Mannheim square off. If the host team wins that contest, the Canadians will finish first in their division and get a bye to the semifinal round Sunday. But if the German side wins, then Canada would take second in the conference and play a quarter-final contest Saturday.
In the other game Thursday, Salavat Yulaev Ufa edged HC Vitkovice Steel 5-4 in overtime.
The quarter-final victors will advance to the semifinals against the two first-place squads Sunday, with the tournament championship game to be played Monday.
Shedden feels Canada is in good shape going forward.
“When you see guys like Jason Spezza blocking shots and backchecking like he was tonight, that’s great to see,” he said. “This is a team that is starting to buy in to a system, and everyone is doing their part.”