Blanked by Czechs

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

VIENNA -- Eight months ago, in the 2004 World Cup, the Czech Republic outplayed Team Canada but lost.

Yesterday, in the world championship gold-medal game, the Czechs outplayed Canada again.

This time, they got the result they deserved, a 3-0 victory.

Granted, they had a bit of luck. And yes, they benefited from some of the typically idiotic decisions of Swedish referee Thomas Andersson.

And for long stretches, Canada dominated in time of possession.

But the fact remains that from beginning to end, top to bottom, the Czechs were the better team.

"We had some chances," said Canada's Rick Nash, who was held without a point for the first time in the tournament. "We had a couple of chances on the first couple of shifts and a lot of chances on the power play as well. But we ran into good defencemen and a hot goaltender and they played well."

There was no doubt about that.

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who was named to the tournament all-star team, was a black hole for pucks. The Canadians would send the puck in his direction and not see it again until the linesman dropped it for the ensuing faceoff.

The Czech defence made sure the Canadians didn't have many great scoring chances after the initial shot. The Czech forwards weren't spectacular, but did enough to win.

And, most of all, the Czechs played a solid team game.

They were rarely caught out of position and were able to nurse a one-goal lead for almost two full periods.

Defenceman Dan Boyle's view of Canada's offence was less complimentary than that offered by Nash.

"They did a good job of shutting us down," he said.

"They're very mobile and they take advantage of no red line.

"I don't think we created anything tonight."

As a result, Canada's dream of three consecutive world championships fell short.

Still, two golds and a silver in three years is not exactly a record to be ashamed of.

But the Canadian approach is that anything less than a gold is a loss.

As goaltender Martin Brodeur said: "The silver medal is a game that you lost. It's not something we're really proud of. Definitely I'm excited to be a part of this team, but it's all about winning, and when you don't win, it's disappointing."

On the other hand, the Canadian loss was certainly a result that pleased European hockey fans.

Although, in general, they respect Canadians, they are fully aware of Canada's domination on the world stage in recent years.

They felt that if Canada was able to win a world championship using only eight players who had played serious hockey over the winter, it would represent a significant black eye for the European game.

When the Czechs were able to get a goal on their first scoring opportunity -- at the 4:13 mark of the opening period -- they were off on the right foot.

It appeared to be a fairly harmless play, as Jaromir Jagr carried the puck down the right side, entered the zone and slid a pass across to Martin Rucinsky. Rucinsky's bad-angled shot hit the post and bounced back to Vaclav Prospal, who had no trouble firing it home.

For the next 39 minutes, the game was up for grabs. But at the 3:15 mark of the third period, Rucinsky stepped over the blue line and blasted a wicked shot that was perfectly placed -- barely inside the far post and just high enough to go over Brodeur's pad.

"He made a good shot," Brodeur said.

"He surprised me a little bit. I thought he was going to fake and go around. When a guy hits the post on a shot from there, it's a good shot."

An empty-netter pushed the score to 3-0, but it made no difference.

The game was long gone by then.


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