Canada’s World Cup team did just that Saturday night in a 4-3 overtime win against the Czech Republic on Vincent Lecavalier’s goal that came on Canada’s only shot in the extra period.
The Czechs were the better team on the night. They had more scoring chances and had more jump to their game but they’re heading home while Canada advances to the World Cup final Tuesday night against Finland.
“We escaped, that’s the right way to put it, said head coach Pat Quinn. “We are not really happy about the way we played.”
Mistakes aside, it was an entertaining game for the 19,266 fans at the Air Canada Centre who saw the most important game between the teams since the Czechs upset Canada in the 1998 Olympic semifinals.
Roberto Luongo got the start in net, replacing the injured Martin Brodeur, who is nursing a sore left wrist. The last time Luongo wore a Canadian jersey was the 2004 World Championships in Prague when he backstopped the Canucks to their second straight gold medal in May. And Luongo looked very sharp for a guy who had not played in a meaningful game in over four months.
In fact he was brilliant in overtime when turned aside five Czech shots - including a great chance by Milan Hejduk - before Lecavalier's sent the fans home happy. Luongo also robbed Hejduk in the third period when the teams were knotted at 3s.
“I wanted to try and stay focused," said Luongo. “I knew I was playing well in practice. I just tried to keep my team in the game as much as I can.
“The world championship experience helped me. There was a lot of pressure in that game, too.”
The Canadians took a 2-0 lead in the second period on goals by Eric Brewer and Mario Lemieux but the dogged Czechs rallied to tied it early in the third.
Kris Draper ripped a slat shot past Tomas Vokoun at 13:47 of then third but the Czechs shocked the partisan crowd by tying it six seconds later, setting up the overtime period.
In overtime, Lecavalier missed on a scoring chance but he redeemed himself on his second effort with a sharp angle shot that found a wide open Czech net, with Vokoun not in position for the save.
Lecavalier was mobbed by his teammates as Canada lived for another day.
Lecavalier said the goal was one of the biggest of his career.
“”Scoring in overtime for your country, it’s pretty high on my career,” he said.
He was asked about the play in overtime which resulted in the winner.
“After I missed my first shot, it kind of just went between my legs. I knew I didn’t have much time so I just turned around and shot as quick as I can.”
The Czechs were gracious losers.
“We had some chances in overtime," said Jaromir Jagr. "Our game plan was don't try to play up and down, the system that Canada plays, because they play very good in it."
The Canadians knew they will have to turn in a better effort against Finland.
“The best thing we can do is move on right away,” said Dany Heatley.
“I think we'll come out hard for 60 minutes and hopefully get that win," added Lecavalier.
The World Cup final pits the two unbeaten teams against each other and it has the makings of a great game.
“You can’t make it to the final unless you’re a good team and they are a good team,” said Adam Foote.