Great start for puck Canucks

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency


Team Canada players celebrate Rick Nash's second-period goal Tuesday at GM Place during Olympic action against Norway. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)

VANCOUVER - For a little more than 20 minutes of play last night, it was looking like Team Canada was taking a Turin for the worse.

Shut out in three of its four games in Italy in the last Olympic Games, Canada looked tighter than an ice dancer’s dress in the early going against Norway, which came into the Olympics ranked 11th in the world.

They were making Norwegian goaltender Pal Grotnes look like another famous number 33.

But the Canadian offence came alive in the second period, scoring three times as Canada went on to an 8-0 win in the opening game in the Olympic tournament for both teams.

Team Canada veteran Jarome Iginla ignited the Canadian offence with what appeared to be a hat trick, the first opening the scoring and the last triggering a hail of hats and wild chants of “go, Canada, go” from a packed GM Place (he clearly tipped a shot by Rick Nash, though the goal was credited to Nash).

“It was a good game for our team to start the tournament that way,” said Iginla, who started the game on the fourth line, but after some nifty line juggling by coach Mike Babcock wound up the first with Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash.

“It was nice to get it going.”

The atmosphere at that point was a stark contrast to the first 20 minutes of the game.

The crowd — with just about every fan wearing a Team Canada sweater — generated an uneasy murmur.

It was Iginla who ended the Canadian scoreless string — Canada was shut out in their last game in Turin — when he beat Grotnes with a hard, rising shot from the slot on the power play two minutes into the second.

Ever wonder what it sounds like when more than 19,000 people collectively exhale?

Before the second period was done, Dany Heatley deflected a shot by Chris Pronger (even the people in Edmonton had to cheer for that one, eh? Yes? Maybe?) for his first of two on the night and Mike Richards dug a puck out from behind the net and used two whacks to put it home as a Canadian penalty expired.

It looked then like Canada shifted into a more relaxed mode. The legs looked livelier and the puck was jumping less when it was near their sticks.

The Canadians poured it on in the third, scoring three goals in the first eight minutes of the period to key the rout.

“I didn’t expect us to come out and score eight in the first 10 minutes,” said Heatley. “They were pumped up, too, and skated well. This is a tournament we have to get better every game. It was a good start tonight, but games are going to get tougher and we have to get better.

“We were all disappointed after ’06 and anxious to get here. It’s been a long wait, but it was nice to get out there in front of our home fans.”

Canadian goaltender Roberto Luongo didn’t face a heck of a lot of tough chances.

He will give way to Martin Brodeur, who backstopped Canada to gold in 2002, when Canada plays its second game of the tournament Thursday against Switzerland, which lost 3-1 to the U.S. earlier Tuesday in the first game for both of those countries.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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