Canada counts its blessings
Lecavalier plays OT hero vs. Czechs
By BRUCE GARRIOCH, Ottawa Sun
TORONTO -- Canada 4, Czech (OT) 3 Not bad for a guy who wasn't even supposed to be here.
Vincent Lecavalier, passed over when Wayne Gretzky and company were putting Team Canada together, scored 3:45 into overtime as Canada escaped with a 4-3 World Cup semi-final win over the Czech Republic last night at the Air Canada Centre.
Lecavalier would not have even been on the team had Steve Yzerman's eye injury healed in time for the World Cup.
Now, he's a hero as Canada prepares to face Finland in the final Tuesday night at the ACC.
Eric Brewer, Mario Lemieux and Kris Draper also scored for Canada, while Senators winger Martin Havlat had a goal and assist for the Czechs. Patrik Elias and Peter Cajanek also scored for the Czechs.
Lecavalier, who won a Stanley Cup this year with the Lightning, couldn't have picked a better time for his second goal of the tournament. Although credit has to go to Ryan Smyth and Dany Heatley for setting it up.
"This is a pretty big goal. Yes, I did score in Game 7 (vs. Calgary in the Stanley Cup final in June), but this is the kind of goal you want to score as well," said Lecavalier. "It's the semi-final of a big tournament and it's an overtime winner. That's a nice one to get.
"I know this wasn't our best performance. I thought at times we played well and then there were times we just couldn't get it done. But this team has a lot of character."
Gretzky was happy to see Canada get some revenge against the Czechs.
"They're a good team." said Team Canada's executive director. "I know that in 1998 (at the Olympics in Nagano) everybody talked about the fact that we should have beaten them and then we lost in the (semi-final) shootout.
"Well, you know what, the Czechs probably deserved a better fate (last night). They played well. They did a great job and for a lot of that game they outplayed us. But we got a strong performance from (goalie) Roberto Luongo and we had people step up at the right time."
Actually, the timing couldn't have been better. Just when organizers were preparing the city for a mass exodus with the prospect of a Czech-Finland final in Toronto, Lecavalier fired the puck past goalie Tomas Vokoun, who had a solid game.
But as good as Vokoun was, Luongo was better, making 37 saves in place of the injured Martin Brodeur, who is expected to return to face Finland in the final.
"It was good to get the chance to play," said Luongo. "That's definitely the biggest win of my career."
Coach Pat Quinn said Canada has work to do.
"We were fortunate to survive. We got the two early goals and perhaps we thought it was going to be an easy time," Quinn said. "They were experienced and we didn't have the focus we needed to have. We didn't execute real well."
The loss was tough on the Czechs.
"We played a great game. We had some bad luck in overtime," said Havlat. "I believe the better team lost."