Drew Doughty, Canada take down stodgy Finns

Canada's Drew Doughty (centre) celebrates his game-winning overtime goal with teammates John...

Canada's Drew Doughty (centre) celebrates his game-winning overtime goal with teammates John Tavares (left) and Jeff Carter during their men's preliminary round hockey game against Finland at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 16, 2014. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:51 PM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - The bad news is Team Canada’s forwards can’t score.

That’s a bad sign, especially since the men’s hockey team’s track record when it comes to offence on the bigger international ice surface is, well, awful.

But there is good news: they have defenceman Drew Doughty, some time to get their supposedly high-powered offence going and while their fancy skaters are firing blanks, they dodged the bullet that would have meant potentially facing Russia in the quarterfinals.

So there is that.

Doughty’s fourth goal of the Olympics and second of the game gave Canada a 2-1 overtime win over Finland Sunday and a meeting in the quarterfinals Wednesday against the winner of the qualification playoff between Switzerland and Latvia Tuesday.

Not that anybody here is a pushover, but there isn’t a country here that wants to take on the Russians on their home soil.

That task could fall to the Finns, as the loss to Canada dropped them to the fourth seed. And while they are the final team to advance directly to the quarterfinals, they will have to face the winner of the Russia/Norway qualification game.

Doughty, meanwhile, has been Canada’s best player and it’s probably not close.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t score like this in L.A. at all,” said Doughty, who has eight goals in 59 games with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. “A lot of it is just my teammates, they’re doing a great job of getting me the puck. When you play with these high-skilled forwards, all you’ve got to do is find some room on the ice and they’re going to find you, so, (I’m) just trying to get my shots through and on the net.”

Doughty gave Canada a 1-0 lead at 13:44 of the first period on the power play, wristing a shot over the right shoulder of Finnish goaltender Tuukka Rask. Finland tied the game with two minutes to go on a deflection by Tuomo Ruuttu.

And now the tournament starts getting serious, especially for Finland and Russia.

Sweden finished first in the rankings with a 3-0 record and nine points. Team USA finished second with eight points (regulation wins are worth three points in the Olympics; victories in overtime or shootout are worth two).

Canada was third with eight points, having finished behind the Americans on goal differential (+11 vs +9).

Finland was tied with Russia on points, but got the fourth seed and a direct path to the quarterfinals with a better goal differential (+8 vs +3).

The three group winners and the team with the next-best record advanced directly to the quarterfinals.

The way the matchups shake out and if form holds, Canada could be on a collision course with the U.S. at the semifinal stage while Sweden’s half of the bracket has Russia and Finland as the top contenders.

It looked like Canada had opened the scoring at the eight-minute mark of the first period when the puck wound up on top of the net and was swatted from there by Canadian forward Rick Nash, down Rask’s back and into the net.

IIHF rules state that a goal is disallowed “if an attacking player contacted the puck with the stick above the crossbar.”

After conferring and consulting the replay, the officials disallowed the goal.

Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock launched into a preemptive defence of his offensively challenged team when asked where he thought his team was at right now.

“You know, it’s interesting. Every time I’ve come to Europe and coached a team, whether it be in ’97, the world junior, or ’04, the world championship, or this time, is no one ever seems to be happy with us,” he said, “and I think we’re competing like crazy, so I’m way happier than people that are sitting 200 feet away.

“It’s a hard game. The European game is interesting; it’s all about defence, the end zone is smaller . . . they get out on your ‘D’ so quick, the dynamic ‘D’ we have don’t get to shoot any pucks; they play man-on-man and they’re on you like glue, and it’s hard, and you have to be committed to doing it.

“And the other thing that happens for the NHL player, and probably for you in the media, is the respect you have for the opposition — you say, ‘well he doesn’t play in the NHL.’ They’re playing for their country and they play hard and they make it hard on you, so we’ve just got to keep getting better.”

Canada doesn’t play again until Wednesday, so there’s still time to do that.

But not much.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson

The qualification playoffs Tuesday will feature the following matchups:

Slovenia (8) vs Austria (9)

Czech Republic (7) vs Slovakia (10)

Switzerland (6) vs Latvia (11)

Russia (5) vs Norway (12)

The quarterfinals on Wednesday will break down this way:

1. Sweden vs winner of Slovenia/Austria

2. USA vs winner of Czech Republic/Slovakia

3. Canada vs winner of Switzerland/Latvia

4. Finland vs winner of Russia/Norway

The semifinals will be:

Winner of matchup 1 vs 4

Winner of matchup 2 vs. 3


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