Canada 4 - Slovakia 1
RIGA, Latvia – Canada scored three times in less than two minutes in the third period to break open a close game en route to a 4-1 quarter-final win over Slovakia at the World Hockey Championship on Wednesday.
Sidney Crosby keyed the scoring spree. He won the faceoff to the right of goalie Karol Krizan and got the puck back to defenceman Dan Hamius and his point shot was blocked. Patrice Bergeron grabbed the rebound, spun around and rifled a wrist shot for a goal that broke a 1-1 knot at 12:53 of the third period.
Crosby then made it 3-1 at 14:23, backhanding a rebound for his tournament-leading seven goal that also extended his point-scoring streak to seven games.Crosby also leads the tournament scoring race with 13 points. Bergeron, with two points, tied Crosby and has 13 himself.
Jeff Carter, who had two shorthanded goals in a 4-2 win over Finland, capped the scoring spree with a goal at 14:32.
"We knew if we kept going to the net good things would happen," said Crosby. "We realized that was the way to score (on Krizan) and eventually the puck went in."
Canada now plays Olympic champion Sweden in the semifinals on Saturday. The winner advances to Sunday's final while the loser will play for the bronze medal. Canada has been in the last three world championship finals, winning twice.
"When you play the Olympic gold medalist you have to show up for the whole game," said Bergeron. "It will be a tough game and they have a lot of talent. They are used to the big ice so that gives them a bit of an advantage. We can't give them too much room and we have stay on top of them all game."
Mike Cammalleri also scored for the Canadians, while Marc Denis made 22 saves in the Canadian net.
The Slovaks went into the game on a bit of a high, having won their last two games to qualify for the tournament's playoff round.
And things continued to go well for them when Dusan Milo scored the game's first goal. , Milo took a pass from Marian Hossa and ripped a shot past Denis at 17:36 of the first. A replay showed that the pusk was inadvertently deflected by Canada's Mike Richards past Denis.
"It was tough when it was 1-0 and we knew we could be a bad bounce from being down 2-0," said Crosby.
The lead lasted until 14:35 of the second. Krizan made the initial stop on a slap shot by Brendan Shanahan but Cammalleri went hard for the rebound and he tapped the puck past the goaltender's right pad for the equalizer.
The Canadians were the better team and the Canadians kept coming at Krizan in wave after wave and their efforts paid off in the third.
Slovakia (3-3-1) will leave this tournament without a medal for the third straight year.
Russia plays the Czech Republic in a quarter-final game on Thursday and Belarus and Finland meet in the second quarter-final.
Preview: Preview: Slovakia went into Tuesday's final qualifying round games notsure where they would end up in the standings and an 8-0 win overUkraine coupled with a 2-1 win by Belarus over Switzerland left themin fourth place.
Canada and Slovakia have faced each other twice before in thequarter-finals. In 2002, the Slovaks rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win3-2 and went on to capture their first and only IIHF WorldChampionship medal. Last year, Joe Thornton scored with 4:22 left tolift Canada, the eventual silver medalist, to a 5-4 victory.
"They will play Canadian hockey," said Slovak forward Milan Jurcina,who's faced so many of Team Canada's players in the NHL as a member ofthe Boston Bruins. "They will put the puck deep and keep forecheckingwith two or three guys. So it will be a really hard game, and we haveto finish every check and convert every chance against them."
The Canadians are coming off a confidence-boosting 4-2 win over Finland.
Head Coach Marc Habscheid announced Tuesday that Marc Denis will getthe start in net. Denis has never lost a game in goal for Canada,racking up a 7-0-2 record while collecting gold medals at the 1996 and1997 world junior championships before going 3-0-0 at the '06 worldchampionship.
"Team is always first when you wear your country's jersey," Denis toldreporters after practice on Tuesday. "How many good players are hereplaying on the fourth line? How many offensive defenceman are notgetting time on the power play? You don't hear anybody whining aboutthat. Being part of a winning team and adventure is always worth it nomatter what your role is."
by Alan Adams
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