Canadians a cut above

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

QUEBEC CITY -- There were a lot of guys named Will playing for Canada yesterday.

Will Nash. Will Getzlaf. Will Heatley. Will Green ...

The Canadians imposed their will on Sweden when they found themselves losing for the first time in the world championship.

When they needed it, one of their boys with the big bodies and the soft hands would barge through the Swedes like they weren't there, which in one case they definitely weren't.

In the end, it was a 5-4 Canada win to set up a gold-medal match tomorrow against the Russians, who blanked Finland 4-0 in yesterday's other semi-final.

And there's more than all those guys named Will if you listen to Ryan Getzlaf.

"There's a little bit of an aura around us. When we need a goal, we're going to get it. It's like we have another gear. When you need a goal it's there."

Canada seemed to specialize yesterday, as was the case when Rick Nash took it upon himself to take the game into his hands with less than four minutes to go to against Norway last week.

"We're big enough and strong enough to go 1-on-1 and get there," said Nash.

"Any time we have that opportunity, we want to take it for a skate and then take it to the net hard," said Getzlaf.

Team Canada came out and took it to the Swedes for the first five minutes, winning almost all of the races to the puck, almost all the faceoffs and blasting nine shots at Sweden netminder Henrik Lundqvist.

Dany Heatley scored his 11th goal of the tournament with a redirection at the side of the net at 5:35 of the period to tie the modern-day goal record for Canada at the tournament set by Eric Lindros in 1993.

But the Swedes, who in the words of Maple Leafs forward Anton Stralman the day before, had a game plan to "try to make (the Canadians) a little bored and change their style of play," was the benefactor of that strategy seeming to work for the rest of the period.

Stralman scored in the final minute of the first in which the once one-sided shots on goal ended up 12-11 for Canada.

The Canadians started to look like themselves again in the second, but a Mike Green shot rang off the post and on to Swedish sticks for what turned out to be a goal at the other end, when Niclas Wallin watched Pascal Leclaire give up a weak rebound and then flounder around.

Sweden 2, Canada 1.

For the first time in eight games at the tournament, Canada was behind.

That lasted all of 72 seconds. Getzlaf hauled the puck down the boards and cut in to create a gorgeous goal, scoring inside the post on the short side.

"I can't say enough about what kind of goal that was from Getzlaf," said captain Shane Doan.

"As a fan, it's great watching all three of them," he said of Nash, Heatley and Getzlaf, who have combined for 20 goals in the tournament.

Jamal Mayers gave Canada the lead and Nash got it back after Stralman scored his second of the game on a wrist shot from inside the blue line.

Nash took a pass at the blue line and split the defence before blasting it by Lundqvist.

It was Green, at the end of the period on a 5-on-3 situation, collecting the puck from Leclaire in his own end, blowing by the three Swedes who seemed to be stuck in quicksand and running into each other, who pulled the trigger to beat Lundqvist with 6.7 seconds left in the period.

That made it 5-3 and chased Lundqvist in favour of Mikael Tellqvist for the third period.

While Frederick Warg scored for Sweden to close the gap in the third, Canada's will had changed the body language of the game and you could read it from both benches.

"I think it's guys rising to the occasion when we need to score a goal," said Doan. "Guys have been doing that all tournament. Nash did it against Norway. Heatley did it against the U.S. Somebody steps up. And I expect somebody will step up (tomorrow) against Russia."

Heatley said there is an aura.

"Somebody is going to score that goal, kill that penalty or make that save," he said.

"Whatever the reason, when we're pushed, we really respond. We're able to find another gear. Whenever we get pushed we have another gear to go to," said coach Ken Hitchcock. "That's been the most impressive thing about this team."


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