Team Canada remain unbeaten at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo thanks to a 7-2 win over the Czech Republic on Tuesday; however the victory came at a high price.
Canada lost defenceman Calvin de Haan to a lower-body injury and forward Zack Kassian to a suspension in what turned into a laugher after a second straight sluggish start.
Brayden Schenn starred once again for Canada with a goal and four assists while Olivier Roy made 17 saves in the victory. Captain Ryan Ellis also had a goal and three assists in another strong effort.
For the second time in as many games Canada got off on the wrong foot as Antonin Honejsek opened the scoring on the Czech's first shot, beating Roy high-glove side just 49 seconds in.
"It was just a good shot by him," said Roy. "I was a little too aggressive on my blocker side and he took advantage of that, so that's something I need to work on."
Canada was able to respond late in the opening frame as Schenn and Jaden Schwartz scored a pair of goals just two minutes apart to give the Canadians a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
Schwartz appeared to suffer a lower-body injury early in the period, but was able to return to the game and score the go-ahead goal.
Canada received some bad news early in the second period as de Haan was forced to leave the game with an apparent leg injury after being driven hard into the boards by Michal Hlinka. De Haan limped to the bench and headed directly to the dressing room.
The Canadians then turned up the intensity as Kassian leveled Czech defenceman Petr Senkerik with what appeared to be a clean but devastating open ice hit. Senkerik lay motionless on the ice for some time before being taken off on a stretcher.
While no penalty was originally assessed on the play, the on-ice officials deliberated and handed Kassian a five minute major and a game misconduct for checking to the head and neck area.
The misconduct means that Kassian will miss at least Canada's next game against Norway on Wednesday. Tournament Disciplinary Single Judge, Dan Marouelli, will have 24 hours to decide if Kassian will receive any supplementary discipline.
"I'm not too worried," said Kassian after the game. "My main concern is the player."
Kassian, a Buffalo Sabres prospect, was suspended by the OHL for 20 games last season after a hit on the Barrie Colts' Matt McKinley.
"I've heard he's (Senkerik) fine. Now it's out of my hands. Hopefully I can just move on after this."
Despite being shorthanded, Canada continued to push offensively. Roy came up with his biggest stop of the tournament so far, stoning Honejsek on what could have been the equalizer. Canada's transition game then took over with Louis Leblanc finishing off a great feed by Schenn to increase the Canadian lead to two goals.
Leblanc's goal appeared to take the wind out of the Czech Republic's sails as Ellis added his second goal of the tournament just moments later.
"That shorty was a turning point for us," said Leblanc.
Canada continued to pour on the offense late in the period as Cody Eakin beat Filip Novotny upstairs to increase the Canadian lead to four goals through 40 minutes.
Things nearly took an ugly turn in the third as Czech forward Martin Frk was ejected for a dangerous spear to the mid-section of Canadian defenceman Erik Gudbranson, gifting Canada a lengthy man-advantage.
Novotny made matters worse moments later as he chopped down Marcus Foligno just outside of his crease. The netminder received a two-minute slashing minor for his effort.
"Toward the end, the game got a little chippy," Leblanc said. "I guess they got frustrated."
"We were rolling four lines, finishing our hits like we want to do every game. It's unfortunate, but it's part of the game."
Canada made the Czechs pay for their transgressions as Tyson Barrie and Jared Cowen scored just 23 seconds apart to confirm a Canadian rout at 7-1.
The Czechs earned a slight measure of revenge on a late power play of their own as Jakub Jerabek fluttered a puck past Roy to pull within five goals on a shot that Roy should have done better on.
Canada dominated all aspects of the game, outshooting the Czechs 38-19, going 4-for-7 on the power play and physically imposing their will throughout the game.
Team Canada now turns their focus to Norway on Wednesday with backup goaltender Mark Visentin getting the nod for his first action of the tournament. The team will have a day off on Thursday before concluding the round robin portion of their tournament with a New Year's Eve date with Sweden.
In earlier Group 'A' action Finland defeated Switzerland 4-0 as Joni Ortio made 15 saves for the shutout. Later tonight Sweden faces Russia while the host United States take on Slovakia.