HELSINKI, May 13: Vacouver Olympic champions Canada maintained their world ice hockey championship preliminary group lead with an 8-0 thrashing of former Soviet republic Kazakhstan here on Saturday.

Toronto Maple Leafs defender Dion Phaneuf scored twice, while Edmonton Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk made 24 saves for a shutout to virtually assure Canada a top-place finish in their group.

Canada looked in complete control from the starting face-off making Kazakhstan goalkeeper Vitali Kolesnik the most busy player at the ice of Hartwall arena.

But Canadians, who won their last world title in 2007, squandered a hatful of chances before Phaneuf scored the opening goal with 4:15 before the first interval on powerplay.

In the second Canada missed further numerous opportunities but scored through Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry, who skated behind Kazakhstan’s net to send the puck in from behind the goal line at 32:05.

Vancouver Canucks left wing Alexandre Burrows added a shorthanded goal with 2:57 before the second break to make it 3-0.

In the third Kazakhstan ran out of gas allowing Evander Kane, John Tavares, Teddy Purcell and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to score one apiece, while Phaneuf netted his second of the match to complete the rout in the two teams’ first ever meeting at the worlds.In Stockholm, the event’s co-hosts Sweden experienced few troubles on their way to a confident 4-0 win over Italy to join leaders Russia atop their group.

The Swedes started in lively fashion with Chicago Blackhawks centre Marcus Kruger opening the score 5:13 into the match, while blueliner Staffan Kronwall added his goal with 48sec remaining in the first period for a 2-0 advantage.

Ottawa Senators rear guard Erik Karlsson scored on two-man powerplay 5:45 into the second, while Colorado Avalanche winger Gabriel Landeskog completed the scoring 1:45 into the third.

In the early Helsinki match 2002 champions Slovakia thrashed Belarus 5-1 to boost their chances of making the knockout round.

Buffalo Sabres rear guard Andrej Sekera put Slovakia into the lead at 6:45 wristing the puck in from just inside the blue line through the traffic.

In the second Branko Radivojevic, Michel Miklik, Tomas Kopecky and Juraj Mikus scored one apiece to give Slovakis a commanding 5-0 advantage before Alexei Kalyuzhny netted a consolation for Belarus.

France recorded their second win at the event beating Switzerland 4-2 to chalk up their fourth win over the Swiss side in their 13th head-to-head meeting at the world championships.

Forward Stephane da Costa scored a double while veteran ‘keeper Cristobal Huet produced 41 saves to add three points to the French team’s balance to jump into    fifth place in their group, three points behind the fourth-placed Slovakia.

Norway also set their sights on a quarter-final spot after they beat Latvia 3-0 in Stockholm to go fourth.

Germany meanwhile battled back from a goal down in their clash with Denmark to notch their second win at the tournament 2-1.—AFP

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