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Canada opens world junior hockey championship with 8-1 win over Czechs

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OTTAWA - John Tavares of the Oshawa Generals paced Canada to an 8-1 win over the Czech Republic with two goals and an assist Friday at the world junior hockey championship.

Angelo Esposito of the Montreal Junior, Windsor Spitfires defenceman Ryan Ellis, Medicine Hat Tigers forward Tyler Ennis, Chris DiDomenico of the Saint John Sea Dogs, Zach Boychuk of the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Niagara IceDogs defenceman Alex Pietrangelo also scored for the defending champions.

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The announced crowd of 19,622 at Scotiabank Place was a world junior hockey championship attendance record for a single game.

Jordan Eberle and Boychuk contributed a pair of assists apiece.

Dustin Tokarski's shutout bid ended with two minutes remaining when Jan Kana scored on the Spokane Chiefs goaltender. Tokarski made 21 saves for the win.

Canada, winner of four straight world junior titles, faces Kazakhstan on Sunday. The U.S. beat Germany 8-2 earlier in another Pool A game.

Russia downed Latvia 4-1 and Sweden beat Finland 3-1 in Pool B.

The team with the best record in each pool at the end of the preliminary round earns a bye to the semifinals. The runners-up meet the third seed from the opposite pool in the quarter-final.

Tavares is a possible No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL entry draft and he displayed his considerable puckhandling skills in the tournament-opener for Canada.

He broke the first-period tension for his teammates by scoring a power-play goal with just four seconds remaining. Tavares scored another early in the second to jump start Canada's victory.

Canada scored four goals in the second period and chased Czech goaltender Tomas Vosvrda from his net. He gave up five goals on 22 shots and was replaced by Dominik Furch after Ennis's goal at 13:33 of the second period.

DiDomenico, Boychuk and Pietrangelo scored in the third to turn the game into a route.

DiDomenico put the puck through Furch's pads from close range at 2:08, Boychuk cruised in from the blue-line and beat the Czech goalie from the high slot at 8:18 and Pietrangelo used the traffic provided by Esposito to score from just inside the blue-line at 11:51.

Ellis, 17, made it 4-0 for Canada at 8:13 of the second when he collected a rebound in goal-mouth scrum and threaded it through scrambling bodies.

Esposito scored Canada's third goal at 7:08. Tavares sent a pass from the boards to the Atlanta Thrashers property streaking in on the opposite wing and Esposito beat Vosvrda blast.

Tavares scored his second power-play goal at 2:09 of the second period to give Canada a 2-0 cushion. Eberle dug the puck out of the corner and sent it across to Tavares, who dropped to one knee and beat Vosvrda glove side.

Tavares energized Scotiabank Place and his team by scoring late in the opening period. He cut across the high slot and wired a shot over Vosvrda's right shoulder.

The line of Eberle, Boychuk and Cody Hodgson set the table for that goal as they'd swarmed the Czech net in search of the first goal just a minute earlier.

Tokarski bailed Canada out earlier in the period when he sprawled to stop Vladimir Ruzicka on a breakaway and also got a pad on Petr Strapac's scoring chance just four minutes into the game. Tokarski had to work for his shutout as the Czechs pressed for a goal during a man-advantage earlier in the third.

When the Canadian team skated onto the ice, they were greeted with a standing ovation. A Canadian flag the size of four parked sport utility vehicles made a round of the upper bowl as it was passed from hand to hand.

The Czechs are carrying a dozen players from the Canadian Hockey League, including two of Tyler Ennis's teammates from the Medicine Hat Tigers. Tigers defenceman Thomas Kundratek was the highest Czech taken in this year's NHL entry draft at 90th overall by the New York Rangers.

The Czechs usually have a lot of players toiling in North America in their lineup and the debate has often been whether that hurts team chemistry and cohesion. The Czechs won back-to-back gold in this tournament in 2000 and 2001, but have won one bronze medal since then.

The Czechs could use 19-year-old forward Jakub Voracek, but the seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft isn't available because he's playing for the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets.

Notes: Canada is 9-0-2 versus the Czech Republic since 1994 after the division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia . . . The Canadian junior team wore 'LB' stickers on the helmets Friday to honour the late Luc Bourdon, who died at the age of 21 in a motorcycle accident earlier this year. The defenceman played for Canada and won gold at the 2006 and 2007 world junior championship. Also, no Canadian player will wear Bourdon's No. 6 in this tournament.

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