Canada digs in for the big win

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

PRAGUE -- From a spectator's point of view, it was as entertaining an exhibition game as you are likely to see.

And from a player's point of view -- as long as you play for Team Canada -- it was exactly the challenge you wanted.

The Canadians squeezed out a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic last night in a game that not only was fast and full of scoring chances, but was highly entertaining.

"It was fun hockey," said forward Simon Gagne, who scored Canada's first goal and assisted on the second. "It has been a long time since we played, and for myself and a lot of guys, we're very excited to play hockey again, especially that type of hockey.

"It was the type of hockey you like. You can skate. You've got space, you can make some plays. It's not just battle and chip and stuff like that. It was very offensive and it's the type of hockey that you love to play."

It wasn't a perfect outing for the Canadians.

SLOW START

They started slowly and had to bounce back after Petr Prucha put the Czechs in front after only 6:27.

"The first period looked to be fun for them, not us," Joe Thornton said.

"But it was a good one to be part of. It was fun to play."

Gradually, the Canadians took over, more than making up for any earlier trangressions.

Gagne scored early in the second period, then, with 2:26 left, Thornton notched the winner.

Gagne started the play coming down the right side and taking a shot from the circle.

"I think they thought it was going to hit the net," Thornton said. "It just bounced perfectly to me off the boards."

This one did and the Canadians had a hard-fought victory, although Roberto Luongo, who played the whole game, had to make an excellent stop on Petr Sykora with the Czech goalie pulled.

"It was good," Canadian coach Marc Habscheid said.

"It's good for the progression that we want. I think our guys really wanted this type of game and they stepped up."

In other play yesterday, Team USA rallied to beat Germany 3-1. The U.S. completed exhibition play with a 3-1 record.


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