Snap out of it, gents

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:05 PM ET

INNSBRUCK, Austria -- It's not the end of the Worlds. But it was the end of easy street.

For Canada, a 5-4 loss to Sweden here last night was likely the end of having a chance to play somebody like Switzerland, Kazakhstan or Belarus in the dreaded crossover elimination game at the IIHF World Hockey Championships.

Canada blew 2-0 and 3-1 leads, came completely unravelled defensively and fell victim to a Swedish team which looked like they'd been playing hockey all year.

It wasn't clear if Team Canada lost their heads first or their legs first, but not long into the second period they lost most of the little races to the puck and, as a result, the hockey game.

"No Canadian team has ever won a gold medal by going through the tournament undefeated,'' said coach Marc Habscheid of recent history, including the back-to-back world titles in the last two years.

BETTER THAN ...

Indeed, this was a lot better than being tied 2-2 by Austria and losing 6-2 to the Czech Republic last year, being tied 2-2 by Denmark the year before, a 2-2 tie against Latvia and a 5-3 loss to the Czechs in 1997.

Canada did, however, go through the tournament undefeated in 1994.

The loss almost certainly means that Sweden will finish first in the Innsbruck qualifying round and draw the fourth-place team in the Vienna division.

"It's a tough one,'' said goaltender Martin Brodeur.

"You score four goals and you should win. On defence we definitely did have problems all night.

''All night when they had clean shots, they got nothing from it.

''Everything they got was from second and third efforts.

"The Swedes played hard. It really did look like they'd played all year. Their passes were right on the money all night.''

Kris Draper said Brodeur should sue for lack of support.

"We hung Marty out to dry far too often tonight and he didn't deserve that.''

Sweden, losers to Canada in both gold- medal games the last two years, had a three-game losing streak against the Canadians in the tournament since last getting a win in 1999.

MORE DISCIPLINE

The Swedes beat Canada in the opening game of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games, in which Canada ended up winning our first gold in 50 years.

"We have to be a lot more disciplined,'' said Habscheid. "We're spending too much time in the penalty box.''

Killing penalties took away a lot of flow, he said of the game in which the Swedes, who were outshot 13-6 in the first period, ended up outshooting the Canadians 42-31.

For starters, this one had the potential to be a routine Canadian win as Joe Thornton, with his fifth goal of the tournament, and Dany Heatley, with his first, scored 30 seconds apart in the ninth minute of the game. Shane Doan made it 3-1 two minutes into the second.

In 22 minutes, Canada had scored as many goals as the Swedes had given up in their first three games.

But then either Team Canada thought they could hang around and collect another win, or the Swedes made the most of their sharpness together to expose the defence and inspire the lack of discipline.

Three consecutive goals gave the Swedes the lead.

And while Rick Nash brought Canada back into a tie with his seventh goal of the tournament, it was Kenny Jonsson who won it with just over six minutes left to play in regulation.

THEY KEPT COMING

"They played a real good style off each other,'' said Draper. "At times we looked like a dominant team. But they kept coming and coming.''

The Canadians left the rink just before midnight here, knowing they'd be back this afternoon for a game which is going to answer a lot of questions about legs and rust.

Only eight Team Canada players have had a hockey season this year.

The Canadians who played in Europe this year have scored 16 of Canada's 21 goals in the tournament.

"I think the quick turnaround is going to be good for us,'' said Habscheid.

"After this, our guys want to get back and play again as soon as possible.''

That, at least, is what they left the rink trying to tell themselves.


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