Canada gets 'ugly' win

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

INNSBRUCK, Austria -- They're the not quite ready for prime time players of the World Hockey Championships.

Team Canada advanced to tomorrow's crossover elimination game against Slovakia. But, with the exception of Rick Nash, who scored the winning goal to escape embarrassment against the Ukrainians here yesterday, their stars are crossed.

Canada proceeds to the win-or-go-home game with not much going.

They've gone from bad to worse to whatever that was we watched here yesterday.

"It was ugly," said Simon Gagne. "We have to crank it up. We need to be better than this."

A lot better.

"I'm sure it's not where everybody thought we'd be," said goaltender Martin Brodeur after Canada completed the qualifying round with a painful-to-watch 2-1 win.

It was, for the most part, another empty effort, this time in an almost empty building.

"There's been a lot of good stuff and a lot of bad stuff, too. We need players to step up. We need to play 60 minutes and get down to playing some hockey."

Ready or not, here they come and nobody who watched a loss to Sweden, a tie against Finland and this aberration against a Ukraine team without a single NHL player in the lineup could possibly suggest they look ready for the quarter-final against Slovakia.

Sweden plays Switzerland in the other game here with the U.S. vs. Russia and Finland vs. Czech Republic playing the quarter-final crossover games in Vienna, with the winners going to the medal round on the weekend.

"There's hope," said Brodeur. "The hope is that the guys show up and do our thing. We haven't seen it on a regular basis."

You have to wonder where their heads are when they show up yesterday and look more like the usually hungover Worldstars which Brodeur backstopped in a 10-game-in-14-day tour. With only a few fans in the stands, Canadian fans wondered why they bothered to show up when Canada didn't. "We came out real flat and weren't energized or fired up at the start of the game," admitted coach Marc Habscheid.

This team looked better when they scored a 2-1 win over the Czechs in Prague in the final pre-tournament game. But this didn't look remotely like that team throughout the qualifying round and the kill-the-game Ukrainians didn't exactly bring out the best in them.

"I think it's kind of dragged," said Brodeur of all the time to get to the crossover game. "It hasn't been like the World Cup when there was excitement in the air and we were playing in Canada."

The Ukrainians held Sweden to a 3-2 win and tied the Americans 1-1. "I can't say anything. I've had a lot of success playing with defence where I come from," laughed the New Jersey Devil, about the only occasion a Canadian smiled here yesterday.

While Canada took a 1-0 lead on a Brendan Morrison goal six minutes into the first period, the Ukrainians evened it four minutes later when Andrei Sryubko whacked the puck off Robyn Regehr's leg and between Brodeur's legs.

It would have been 2-1 Ukraine when Denys Isayenko failed to raise the puck over an on-his-back sprawling Brodeur, who watched Kostyantyn Simchuk play great at the other end when Canada finally got something going after being outshot in the second period.

"I don't know the reason we played like this," said Gagne. "We have to forget about that game. I don't want to watch it. I want to turn the page."

Captain Ryan Smyth said it isn't an option.

"That sure wasn't our finest. We have to get things up-beat again. Now it's do or die. We just have to go out and play for pride."

It's been a week since they looked or sounded like a team that has a whole heck of a lot other than the red maple leaf on their sweaters - and what it represents - to take to the very scary game which is up next.


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