Russians, reloaded

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

INNSBRUCK, Austria -- Canada-Russia never gets old, but it's not often Canada gets a dry run like the one they had yesterday before making the match.

"The Russians are very much like the Slovaks," said coach Marc Habscheid.

"They're loaded with offensive talent. They're like the Slovakians with their first two lines."

The Russians, who won in a shootout against Finland last night in Vienna, are the only unbeaten team in the tournament. But they've been tied three times if you count the game against the Finns.

Habscheid came away from the game looking good on more than one front. For one thing, his approach of not getting on his team for their uninspired play in the qualifying round with the belief they'd show up when it mattered most, proved to be true.

ENJOYABLE GAME

"It was an enjoyable game to coach," he said.

"These guys know. They are all skilled. They all have ability. But they like playing the big game. They like pressure. They love that."

Habscheid also came out of this looking good by putting Ryan Smyth back on the line with Dany Heatley and Brendan Morrison.

"We'd used it before. Smyth and Heatley had played together before the tournament, too, including some in the World Cup of Hockey. Look at the power-play goal Smyth scored. It was world-class."

Heatley said he knew Smyth would play a big game.

"Ryan Smyth is a big-game player," said Calgary product Heatley of the native of Banff, who screened Jan Lasak on Heatley's first goal for Canada and then finished off a three-way play from behind the net for the second.

"Smytty and myself pride ourselves on coming up big in the big games."

It looked like Smyth might have tipped the puck on Heatley's goal but the Edmonton Oiler said, "No, I didn't. I was doing my usual front-of-the-net thing."

Heatley said it was tough enough.

"We were strong in our own end. We shook off the early goal, gutted it out and wore them down."

Heatley agreed with Habscheid that this is when the World Hockey Championships are most exciting.

"It was fun," he said of the game in which Slovakia led 1-0 and 2-1, was down 3-2, up 4-3 and ended up losing 5-4. "They are a dangerous team that can do that to you," said Heatley.

Smyth, who will now go to Vienna to play his record 58th and 59th games for Canada at this tournament, said he felt the heat was on both him and Heatley to come through in this one.

STEPPED UP

"We knew we had to raise our level of play. Today I thought we stepped up. Heats was really mentally focussed. I saw it in his eyes in the dressing room. He delivered.

"The whole team delivered. We fought through so many things."

While the second line came through, it was still Joe Thornton, Rick Nash and Simon Gagne who led the way with three goals in the game, two from Gagne and one from Thornton. The line had eight points, including three assists from Nash who played his first game in the tournament without a goal.

"It was huge to play in a game like that," said the 20-year-old Columbus Blue Jacket. "Everyone doubted us after the Ukraine game. I'm sure a lot of people thought we were going to fold when some things went against us in this game."

Habscheid left Sheldon Souray and Mike Fisher on the bench for the entire game and moved Scott Walker into a full-time job on the fourth line.

Smyth said Canada wasn't going to be denied.

"We showed that we have it in that dressing room," said Captain Canada.

"The guys care. The guys want to win."


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