Big hearts, weak legs

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

INNSBRUCK, Austria -- The only hockey-related thing Team Canada has scheduled today is the team picture. They're not sure if they should smile.

After losing the previous night to Sweden, 5-4, and managing only a come-from-behind 3-3 tie with Finland yesterday, there weren't many Canadian players smiling.

Around here "no gas" means no carbonation in the bottled water. This weekend it meant Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championships.

No legs. No brains. Big hearts. That was the bottom line as Canada skated in sand.

They looked very much like a team playing a ninth game in a three-week road trip with the last two on back-to-back nights. Which, of course, was the case. They did not look much like back-to-back world champs.

Canada was skated into the ground in Saturday's 5-4 loss to Sweden, and they came close to being pushed around by the Finns, who took the body a lot.

Finland also put lots of heat on the defence, causing turnovers.

MUST BEAT UKRAINE

The bottom line is that with a win over the Ukraine tomorrow, Canada will stay here for Thursday's very scary crossover quarter-final elimination game against the third-place team in the Vienna pool.

"We did a great job coming back. It was a good character builder for our team. Now we can rest for a day, knowing we're guaranteed to stay here for when the real tournament begins," said Chris Phillips, the Fort McMurray native who was essentially the seventh defenceman and winner of Canada's player of the game award.

Phillips says Canada has to come back by playing "simple, physical hockey."

Rick Nash, who has scored in every game and now has eight for the tournament, brought Canada back from 3-1, batting a rebound home.

"It was a lucky goal. Just luck," said Nash. "In the first two periods you could see we were tired. It felt like we were playing two games in 12 hours.

BIG, STRONG GUYS

"It was tough. They were very physical. They have big guys and they have big defencemen - big, strong guys. We were coming off a loss in a tough game.

"Obviously we didn't have our legs. Nobody is used to playing in that short of a time gap. It's not allowed in the NHL.

"We've got guys who haven't played all year, and now they're playing two games like that."

Niklas Hagman caught Scott Hannan backing up instead of challenging and rifled a long shot off his leg and between the legs of a screened Roberto Luongo in the Canadian nets for the game's opening goal.

A hooking penalty to Ed Jovanovski, and a giveaway by Dan Boyle, resulted in Jukka Hentunen being left unchecked in the slot. He gave the Finns a 2-0 lead.

For Canada, a team which had scored in every period in the tournament prior to this one, there was a span of 52:20 without getting a goal, until Wade Redden ended the drought on a 4-on-4 in the final minute of the second period.

But Scott Walker turned the puck over inside the blue-line and Tomi Kallio scored to make it 3-1.

Nash brought Canada back, and Patrick Marleau converted a pass from Brenden Morrow to finally get the equalizer.

Canada looked like a train wreck most of the night, but they got back on track and told themselves it was Canadian heart that saved the day.

GUTTING IT OUT

"It was a big point for us," said coach Marc Habscheid. "We were down 3-1 and the guys found a way to gut it out. It was a tough turnaround, we were coming off a tough, emotional game, and it was draining for us.

"When they made it 3-1, our bench didn't sink. The guys worked themselves through it. The best part was that we found a way to come back in the third period."

So, other than the team picture, they get the day off.

But for a whole lot of people who watched them this weekend, the caption might be 'Why are these guys smiling?'


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