INNSBRUCK, Austria – This was the type of character-building game that Team Canada needed at this point in the world hockey championship.
The Canadians were back on the ice Sunday against Finland and the qualifying round game came less than 24 hours after a draining loss to Sweden.
The Canadians could have quit when the Finns pulled ahead 2-0 and the 3-1 early in the third but that’s not the Canadian way. They rallied for a 3-3 tie and now have some time off to rest up for Tuesday’s game against Ukraine.
“The fact we came back and tied it was satisfying,” said goalie Roberto Luongo.
“I’d like to think that this was a character-builder for us,” said defenceman Ed Jovanovski.
It took almost half the game for the Canadians to get their legs going and their game in synch and they can thank Rich Nash for helping getting things on track.
Nash has made a name for himself in the 16-team tournament for his soft touch around the net and he added another dimension to his game in the form of leadership.
The Finns were ahead 2-0 midway though the game when Nash delivered a couple of bone-crushing hits on one shift that drilled the Finns into the boards and served notice that the Canadians might be down – at least on the scoreboard - but they were not out.
Nash injected some energy into the Canadian bench and it was infectious. The Canadians started to play the brand of hockey they are known for and the game changed.
“I remember that shift,” said Coach Marc Habscheid. “It was a real physical shift. There were lots of hits and lots of completed hits on the puck and it created some energy for the rest of the bench and it was a big shift for us.”
“It’s a case where it takes somebody to step up and do something and a big hit, I think we built off that,” said Wade Redden
“We had to have some way to get the team going,” said Nash. “It (the game) was tough. We were coming off a tough (5-4) loss and we were not getting any shots to the net and we needed to do something.”
Redden scored on a slap shot before the period ended to slice Finland’s lead to 2-1.
And after the Finns went ahead 3-1 in the third, the Canadians dug deep again and it was Nash who again propelled the Canadians.
Nash batted Simon Gagne’s pass out of the air for his eighth goal in five games at 8:58 and Patrick Marleau scored 51 seconds later to complete the comeback.
“Nasher has done a great job for us in this tournament making big plays,” said Redden. “I’d like to think this is character building for us.”
Habscheid was pleased with the way the Canadians responded to the a) the adversity of losing 5-4 to Sweden on Saturday night, and b) being down by two goals twice to the Finns.
“I thought we turned the puck over less and I think our game today was better today and improved as the game went on,” he said. “The guys found a way to gut it out and that is a big point.
“Our guys found a way to work back and get that point.”
Luongo got the start in net after Martin Brodeur played against Sweden, and Luongo was surprised by a Niklas Hagman wrist shot that opened the scoring 11:00 into the game.
The Canadians were killing a hooking penalty to Jovanovski when Jukka Hentunen doubled the lead 4:02 into the second period.
The Canadians didn’t have much going for them at this point, but Nash changed the complexion of the game with his bruising shift.
Not long after, the teams were playing 4 aside when Dan Heatley set up Redden and his point shot whizzed through a crowd and past goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who got the start after goalie Fredrik Norrena left the team was a (wink-wink) injury. The Finnish media said Norrena walked out on the team when he was told he would not get the start against Canada. An overweight Pasi Nurminen joined Finland Saturday and was used as backup to Backstrom.
Kallio made it 3-1 in the third but what looked like a comfortable lead evaporated thanks to the effort of Nash and Marleau.
Redden said the Canadians didn’t panic when the Finns pulled ahead by two in the third.
“Everyone stayed calm and there was still lots of hockey left,” said Redden.
“We had a character check in the third and the guys showed they wanted to play,” said Nash.
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Brad Pascall Vice-President, Hockey Operations