Team Canada Eric Staal (right) celebrates a second period goal as Team Germany goalie Robert Muller and Sebastian Osterloh remain on the ice. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Dembeck
HALIFAX - When the puck finally started going in for Eric Staal, it simply didn't stop.
The big centre broke out in a big way Saturday by scoring his first four goals of the IIHF World Hockey Championship. Staal also added an assist as Canada routed the helpless Germans 10-1.
"We were just trying to get Staal as many goals as possible," said linemate Derek Roy. "We said he was on pace for six. We were just trying to feed him in the third period, he had the hot stick going.
"He's a great player."
That greatness hadn't been realized early in this tournament as Staal managed just two assists in the first four games and didn't seem to have his usual deft touch around the net.
Part of that can be chalked up to the fact that he was sometimes being used in an unfamiliar position on the wing but coach Ken Hitchcock thinks there was more to it than that.
"I feel like Eric was carrying too much stress with him," said Hitchcock. "He just needed to continue to work and play. He did that today and he had a lot of success.
"I think sometimes the burden of expectations, when you carry it and you don't carry it the right way, it can really be heavy."
The weight was certainly lifted Saturday.
Staal is the first Canadian player to score at least four goals in a world championship game in 15 years. Eric Lindros had five against Italy in 1993 and no one else has more than three in the time since.
The 23-year-old Staal is playing in his second straight world championship and was able to remain patient when it started slowly.
"Obviously you want to help out as much as you can," said Staal. "I felt like I was working hard and getting to those areas but just not getting enough wood on it.
"It was just a matter of time."
Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Patrick Sharp, Mike Green, Jamal Mayers and Roy also scored for Canada while Martin St. Louis picked up five assists.
Frank Hordler spoiled Cam Ward's shutout bid by scoring for Germany midway through the third period.
This game could have used a mercy rule. At the end of the second period, the Canadians had almost as many goals (nine) as the Germans had shots (10).
"Our team was outmatched in just about every aspect of the game," said German coach Uwe Krupp. "I think it was a sobering experience for everybody. Thank god you don't have too many days like this."
Added captain Marco Sturm: "They're just too big, too strong, too good in all areas."
The German team has been surrounded by scandal during this event and simply didn't have any life against the Canadians, who skated as well as they have all tournament.
Canada has a 5-0 record here but it's hard to gauge exactly where the team is at because it's yet to face one of the other big powers. Monday's game against Finland could be an important one as it will likely dictate who will play Norway in the quarter-finals.
"Today was hopefully the start of putting together the total package," said Hitchcock. "We're going to need it."
In other matches, the Czech Republic edged Belarus 3-2 and Russia nipped Sweden 3-2 on a late goal from Alex Ovechkin. In relegation play, Slovakia beat Slovenia 4-3 and France won a high scoring game 6-4 over Italy.
Staal is one of the Canadian forwards who will be needed to provide secondary scoring in the big games.
He and St. Louis became the sixth and seventh Canadian players in the modern era to record five points in a game at this event. Lindros holds the record with six - a feat he accomplished twice back in 1993.
"You got to have your players play their best," said St. Louis. "If we can get all our guys with confidence and feeling good about themselves, I like our chances."
Perhaps the most notable thing about the victory over Germany is that Canada didn't need much from the top line to get it. Heatley, Rick Nash and Ryan Getzlaf had carried this team early but only combined for a single point on Saturday.
This one got ugly in a hurry.
Spezza opened the scoring at 5:14 of the first period when he skated in off the wing and outwaited Dimitrij Kotschnew before sliding the puck between the German goalie's legs. He was dropped to the fourth line early in the event after struggling to find his rhythm and celebrated his first goal here by pumping his fist enthusiastically.
A familiar figure extended the lead to 2-0. Heatley scored his tournament-leading seventh goal after beating a defender and knocking his own rebound by Kotschnew at 13:35.
Staal's first of the night came 30 seconds later and Sharp made it 4-0 with 22.9 seconds left in the first period when his centring pass went in off a skate.
"After a few, they looked like it was tough to come back for them," said Staal.
Krupp sent in goalie Robert Mueller to start the second period but there was nothing he could do to stop the onslaught. Staal scored two goals in the first 8:20 of the second period to complete the hat trick before getting a fourth at 15:30.
Roy and Mayers also had goals in the frame to make it 9-0 after 40 minutes, prompting some of the 9,182 fans at the Metro Centre to head for their cars early.
Green scored a power-play goal at 1:47 of the third period to go along with two assists.
Hordler was the last German to touch the puck before Canadian defenceman Dan Hamhuis inadvertently knocked it into his own goal at 8:40. It was the only piece of good fortune for the German team, which was officially eliminated from quarter-final contention.
The mood around the team has been especially good for the past couple days and Hitchcock sensed a game like this was coming.
"Everything we shot went in the net," he said. "We played a very powerful game today. We had a lot of people on top of it."