Close just not good enough for Slovakia

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

INNSBRUCK, Austria -- Normally, Slovakia would be happy to produce a respectable game against Canada.

But Slovakia is a team with a lot of firepower, so much so that yesterday's loss was not easy to take.

"We kept getting a lead, but we always lost the lead too soon," said Michael Handzus, one of the goal-scorers.

"It's very disappointing. I think we had a team to beat them and a team to go the whole way. It's a one-game tournament. You win, you are happy. If not, you go home.

PLAYED WELL

"I think we played well. We played hard. We gave it everything we had. But we made a mistake on defence and it cost us the game.

"If you've got a lead in the third period, you should hold on. We made a lot of mistakes in our zone."

A lot of those mistakes were the result of Canadian pressure, but they were indeed costly.

"It's too bad we couldn't hold the lead three times," said Marian Hossa of the Ottawa Senators, who set up Pavol Demitra for a short-handed goal that put the Slovaks up 4-3 in the third period. "Both teams made mistakes, but when we made mistakes, Team Canada capitalized.

"We knew we could win this game tonight. In some parts, we were the stronger team, but as the game went on, I think Canada took over a little bit and we made more mistakes in our zone and they found a way to score.

"I think both teams played a strong game, but they got a lucky goal."

Handzus said that even though the Canadians had forced some mistakes, they weren't as strong as he had anticipated.

"I think it surprised me that they didn't play as well defensively as they used to," he said. "I think we could beat them, but we didn't play too well defensively. either.

"They got a lucky goal in the third and they won."

The man who allowed the "lucky goal," Jan Lasak, was also disappointed, even though he had weathered a series of Canadian attacks.

"I wasn't tired," he said. "It was a busy season for me. I played many many games. I felt great actually. It was just too bad that they had so much room in front of the net and so many chances.

"It was an unlucky one for us. When we were up 4-3, we had a couple of chances and the puck went through the crease so close to the post. If one of them goes in, we're up by two goals and I think we would be able to beat them.

"But they didn't go in and we go home and they go to Vienna."


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