To us from them

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

VIENNA, Austria -- It's a gift.

And they almost gave it away.

"The gold-medal game is a gift to hockey fans in Canada who have missed the game of hockey so much all year,'' said Martin Brodeur.

The gift of gold - a third straight world hockey championship - can be provided today when Canada goes against the Czech Republic.

"It's exciting. For us to be able to give them a gold-medal game and hopefully bring a gold medal back, it's like a gift we're giving back to them,'' said the national netminder who saved the Canadian bacon in a semifinal game against Russia they once led 4-0, but ended up winning 4-3 yesterday.

Team Canada had the gold-medal game seemingly gift-wrapped early. Then they turned it into a high-wire act and Brodeur had to save the day.

Today Brodeur has a chance to complete the hockey grand slam - Stanley Cup, Olympics, World Cup and World Championships.

"This is why I wanted to come,'' said Wade Redden, the Lloydminster native who scored the first goal of the game for the Canadians, who took the ice seemingly possessed.

Canada, which has never blown a 4-0 lead in top-of-the-world hockey before, came close to doing what Finland did two years ago in Helsinki when they gassed a 5-1 lead 35 minutes into a quarter-final against Sweden and lost 6-5.

IT'S UNFORTUNATE

"With no hockey this year, it's been unfortunate,'' said Kris Draper. "The lockout sucks. From the minute we got locked out, I was looking forward to this. Five weeks away from my kids will be worth it if we win.''

For Canada, it's a chance to do what hasn't been done since the 1950 and 1952 Edmonton Mercurys and 1951 Lethbridge Maple Leafs won three.

For Ryan Smyth, Dany Heatley and Roberto Luongo it's a chance to be the first Canadian players ever to win three straight.

"That would be awesome,'' said Smyth. "But more important is for a few older guys to get there first. A lot of players don't have one. Now we all have a chance to be part of hockey history.''

Joe Thornton, who had three assists in this one, said Canada came for one game.

"This team came here to get to the final.''

Canada at least made the semifinal memorable by making such an adventure out of it.

"We started the game the way they finished it,'' said Redden.

FIRST TWO GOALS

"Those first two goals were huge,'' he added of Souray, who spent the crossover quarter-final elimination game glued to the bench, coming up to make the play to make it 2-0 at 5:46. Heatley made it 3-0 on a 5-on-3 power play at 10:37.

Canada, which had only one goal from a defenceman all tournament, received another from the back by Ed Jovanovski 100 seconds into the second period. Alexander Semin, Alexei Yashin and Alexander Ovechkin brought the Russians back.

"Ah, 4-0 is too much,'' said Pavel Datsyuk. "We had a chance. We came close. Maybe if we had another one or two minutes.''.

The grind line - Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Shane Doan - kept Datsyuk and the No. 1 Russian line off the scoreboard.

"It got a little more interesting than it should,'' said Draper. "We played unbelievable in the first half of the game. Then we let up a bit and when you do that, they'll make you pay.

''And what a game Marty gave us in goal. He's the heart of this team. Right until the end he was unbelievable for us.''

"That was a wild last 30 minutes,'' said Brodeur. "They were down so much they tried some stupid stuff and we gave them the opportunity to do it. We let them do whatever they wanted.''

Brodeur said he felt good in this one.

"I made some solid saves at critical times. Confidence wise, it was good.''

Brodeur said he's determined to bring back a gold souvenir from the lost season.

"Every season you want to do something. The 2005 season didn't exist. This is the only competition we are able to play.''

Today they go for gold. Today they try to complete the three-peat.


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