Typical win for Team Canada

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

INNSBRUCK, Austria -- As a spectator, you couldn't ask for a much more entertaining game than Team Canada's 5-4 victory over Slovakia yesterday.

It had breakaways, a penalty shot, lead changes, heavy hitting, end-to-end action and everything that makes hockey such a great game when it's played the right way.

But really, most of these developments were anticipated.

Slovakia, with its stable of superb forwards, was expected to make life difficult for Team Canada's defenders and it did -- right from the opening moments. Marian Gaborik scored on a breakaway with only 45 seconds gone.

And Canada was expected to find a way to grind out a victory. That happened, too, as the Canadians qualified for the semi-finals and will play Russia tomorrow (TSN, 10 a.m.). No fewer than three times, the Canadians trailed in the game, but every time, they came back before the Slovaks could extend the lead.

There also had been some suspicions that if the Canadians pumped a lot of rubber at Slovak goalie Jan Lasak, they eventually would be rewarded.

Sure enough, Joe Thornton broke a 4-4 tie with the game-winner from the top of the circle with only 4:22 remaining.

Lasak's teammates all referred to it as "a lucky goal," which is a hockey euphemism for a bad goal allowed by your own goaltender.

But it certainly wasn't a soft shot. Thornton got a lot of composite material on it and Lasak said. "I had a clear view of it. I saw it all the way.

"But the puck was in the air and somehow just flew up and went down so fast. I was standing in the right place. If the puck had gone straight, it would have hit me so easily. The puck was flying so weird, up and then down.

"I didn't even go down because I saw the puck all the way. I saw the shot. It was going right in my glove."

But instead, it ended up in the net and once again, as so often has been the case, Canada had overcome adversity and found a way to win.

Most teams would be demoralized by a breakaway goal in the first minute. Not this one.

"That's not the way we wanted to start," coach Marc Habscheid said. "But the guys didn't blink at all. They just said, 'Don't worry about it.' "

They didn't. Dany Heatley got it back five minutes later, only to have Michael Handzus convert another breakaway. He came in on the left side and when Brodeur went down early, he just flipped the puck over him and into the net.

"I just looked at him and I saw him all the way," Handzus said. "I saw that he was jumping at me. He was pretty quick. If I hadn't seen him, it would have been different but I saw him all the way, so it was easy."

Once again, Canada fought back, this time when Ryan Smyth converted a lovely setup from Patrick Marleau.

Then, in the second period, Simon Gagne put Canada up 3-2 and when he raised his arms to celebrate was cross-checked into the boards by Rene Vydareny.

Naturally enough, the Canadians wanted a penalty but in one of his many laughable decisions, Swedish referee Thomas Andersson simply gave a 10-minute misconduct.

"The reason he gave me was that the infraction happened before the puck crossed the line," said Habscheid. Perhaps in Sweden, Andersson often encounters players who celebrate the goal before they score it.

Not long afterward, Andersson, who also disallowed a perfectly good Canadian goal with a quick whistle, gave the Slovaks a two-man advantage and Pavol Demitra scored.

When Andersson subsequently awarded a penalty shot to Zigmund Palffy, the Canadians appeared to be in serious trouble. However, Brodeur made the save.

Even though Demitra scored again in the third period, it was not enough. Gagne got his second on the night after Rick Nash did yeoman's work behind the net and the stage was set for Thornton's winner.


Videos

Photos