TORONTO (AP)- Canada’s World Cup of Hockey opener was Carey Price’s first meaningful game in almost 10 months. He played like he was in prime mid-season form.
Price stopped 27 shots to help Canada beat the Czech Republic 6-0 on Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. He made an excellent save after Ondrej Palat tipped a shot in the opening minute and delivered when needed the rest of the way.
Price hadn’t played since late November after a knee injury cost him nearly all of last season with the Montreal Canadiens.
“It was definitely nice to get a few shots off the get-go,” Price said. “I started to get a feel for the game. Obviously, as the game went on I started to feel more comfortable. I thought our team play was very good tonight.”
Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists, and Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Toews and Alex Pietrangelo also scored.
Canada’s captain also won six-of-seven faceoffs in 13 minutes.
“Let’s not get carried away,” said coach Mike Babcock, asked if Crosby had gotten better from earlier Team Canada performances, specifically the past two Olympics. “He was a star in Sochi. He was a star in Vancouver. What you saw tonight though is he got points.”
Crosby opened the scoring and helped set up Machand’s goal that made it 2-0 late in the first. Crosby also assisted on Thornton’s goal in the second period
“Sid is obviously an incredible playmaker with a very high hockey I.Q.,” Marchand said.
Michal Neuvirth made 44 saves for the Czech Republic.
“The goalie was really good,” Babcock said. “(Especially) at the start until we settled in and got playing.”
The Czechs couldn’t maintain their early pace and started to fade after the midway point of the first period. Price stopped 12 shots in the first, made seven saves in the second and eight stops in the third period, few of the laborious variety.
Price only returned to game action last week in exhibition play. The Montreal star looked rusty in a 4-2 loss to the United States, but was sharper in a 3-2 overtime win over Russia a few days later.
“I don’t try to overthink things and overcomplicate things,” Price said. “I think that’s something I’ve improved on over the last couple of games. It just comes down to preparing the right way and just letting your instincts take over. It’s definitely nice to kick one out in the first minute and start feeling good, just let it roll from there.”
The Canadians face the Americans on Tuesday night.
“I think we understand the position we’re in,” Crosby said. “We’re at home and there’s high expectations, but I think that’s just part of it. If anything, hopefully that’s something that gets the best out of us.”
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