Jarome Iginla can wipe one worry from his mind.
Iginla was starting to wonder whether he’d ever score in the World Cup of Hockey – he went into Wednesday’s game pointless in three outings - but he chased that scare from his grey cells with a two-goal performance in Canada’s 5-0 win over Slovakia.
Canada now plays the Czech Republic in the semifinals on Saturday. The United States plays Finland on Friday night in the other semifinal and the winners meet Tuesday for the championship.
“I was hoping that our line (with Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic) would get on the scoreboard,” Iginla said after the game. “We’ve created chances in the past three games.
“I was trying to hold all negative thoughts but I was thinking (whether) I was going to be the first to ever play with Lemieux and Sakic and go pointless,” Iginla continued. “Fortunately some went in tonight. We’ve had some great chances and tonight it came through.”
The line of Sakic, Lemieux and Iginla produced three goals and eight points. Sakic, Vince Lecavalier and Ryan Smythe had Canada’s other goals, while Martin Brodeur made 23 saves for the shutout.
“They're very easy guys to play with," Iginla said. "I still battle not being a little bit in awe there. It's something; they're so down-to-earth that you know you miss a play. I want to hit them every time they're open, kind of convert every time I can, but they're great. They're so positive. You come back and miss and they pat me on the back. Sometimes I can use that when it was getting pretty tough in there.”
“It's a real treat playing with Mario and Joe."
After a goalless first period, Canada erupted for four goals in a span of nine minutes, 20 seconds in the second for its fourth straight win.
Sakic said the outburst provided Team Canada with a slight sense of relief.
“Getting those goals in the second period, I do not know if it demoralized them but it really really helped give us a big boost and enable us to continue our momentum and game plan throughout,” said Sakic. “Obviously when you get goals close together, it is a great momentum shift.”
The upset-minded Slovaks made a game of it for 20 minutes by playing a smothering defensive style while doing little on the offensive side of the puck.
But the Canadians solved the Slovaks at 2:28 of the second period when Brad Richards sent a cross-ice pass that Lecavalier converted to open the scoring and continue one World Cup streak. The team that’s scored first in the World Cup now has a 14-0-1 record.
Iginla doubled the lead three minutes later and any faint hope the Slovaks had of regrouping and rallying were dashed in a span of 19 seconds when a pair of goals put the game out of reach.
Smyth at 11:29 and Sakic iced the win seconds later.
Coach Pat Quinn said it was fun to watch the scoring spree.
“It is fun when you see that very talented guys can show discipline of defence to create those opportunities that they did and then they made quick smart plays and that was beautiful to watch,” said Quinn. “As a coach you get a sense of relief there but you don’t want your players to feel the same way. You want them to feel the urgency to play 60 minutes.”
Team Canada will begin preparations on Thursday to face the Czech Republic.
The Czechs started the tournament with losses at Finland (4-0) and Sweden (4-3). But they showed improvement in the last period against Sweden, scoring three goals, and then trounced Germany 7-2 in the round-robin finale in Prague.
They eliminated the Swedes with a 6-1 win on Tuesday and the right to advance.
“It's going to be a tough game,' Iginla says. “We've been watching them, we realize it's not how you start a tournament and they're starting to rev up now. They've scored a lot of goals lately; they've got a lot of fire power. So it's going to be a good one.
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