Wild, scrambly, loud, emotional.
Pick any adjective you want, and that describes Canada’s 6-5 win over Slovakia on Monday in Kosice, Slovakia, home of the 2019 IIHF world championships.
Mark Stone, who turned 27 Monday, scored a power-play goal with 1.8 seconds showing on the clock as Canada won its second in a row in a see-saw battle in which no lead felt safe.
“We like it, the fans like it,” Stone told TSN. “I don’t know if the coaches like it.”
Stone held the puck for as long as he could on the half-boards, looking up at the clock before shooting the winner, breaking Slovakia’s heart as the home crowd — who had sang and chanted all game — rained debris down onto the ice and booed O Canada.
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“It was a fun game to play,” Stone said. “We don’t get these European crowds at home, so it’s a little bit different for us. Happy to be able to get the win.”
- Slovakian heartbreak: If Slovakia could have held on for just two more seconds and forced overtime, they would have guaranteed themselves a point. Instead, they came up empty in a game in which they’d held leads of 2-0 in the first and 4-2 in the second.
- The difference: Special teams were the difference. Canada scored three goals, including Stone’s winner, with the extra man. Slovakia went 0-for-5 on the power play, including failing to score when Anthony Mantha was called for slashing at 14:11 of the third period.
- For Canada: Shea Theodore, Jonathan Marchessault and Stone scored on the power play while Mantha, Anthony Cirelli and Troy Stetcher scored at even strength.
- For Slovakia: A couple of names familiar to Maple Leaf fans — Martin Marincin and Richard Panik — factored in the game. Marincin quarterbacked the Slovakia power play and has an assist. Panik, an ex-Leaf, interfered with Canada goalie Matt Murray enough that a goal by Tomas Tatar was disallowed in the second. Adam Liska and Matus Sukel each scored twice while Ladislav Nagy scored once.
- Goaltending: Murray had a rough night, allowing five goals on 26 shots. He had been victimized in Canada’s opening loss to Finland. It was youngster Carter Hart who got the shutout Sunday against Great Britain. Patrik Rybar, a 25-year-old prospect with the Detroit Red Wings, manned the Slovakia net. Rybar was one of the AHL’s top goalies this season. He was pulled after Canada took a lead for the first time, going up 5-4 late in the second. Rybar allowed five goals on 20 shots. Marek Ciliak, a 29-year-old veteran of the Czech league, took over.
- Game notes: Forward Tyler Bertuzzi was a healthy scratch with the arrival of Pierre-Luc Dubois … Defenceman Dante Fabbro took a puck to the face in the first period and did not return. Brandon Montour also left the game due to injury … Long-time Buffalo Sabre and former NHL coach Craig Ramsay was behind the bench for Slovakia.
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- Up next: Canada has two days off before playing France on Thursday.
- Elsewhere: Leafs forward William Nylander took the tournament lead in points (two goals, six assists) with a five-point night in a 9-1 win over Norway on Monday … American Jack Hughes, projected to be the top pick in the NHL draft in June, turns 18 this week and will remove his face-mask in favour of a visor … Finland’s Kappo Kakko, projected to be the second overall pick, was held without a goal for the first time in three games, Finland losing 3-2 to the Americans.
Kevin McGran is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @kevin_mcgran