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Canada wins in shaky start

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  • David Elkin
    Canada earns victory, Latvia earns respect Team Canada had much to celebrate this afternoon, but it wasn t all good news for last year s gold medallists By
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2005
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      Canada earns victory, Latvia earns respect

      Team Canada had much to celebrate this afternoon, but it wasn't all good
      news for last year's gold medallists

      By Andrew Podnieks

      Team Canada opened its World Championship title defense with a
      hard-fought 6-4 win over the Latvians this afternoon in Innsbruck,
      scoring four power play goals and chasing starting goalie Edgars
      Masalskis in the process. Rick Nash led the way for Canada with a hat trick.

      The first two Latvian scores came on glaring giveaways by the Canadians
      who were otherwise too overpowering for their smaller, less skilled
      opponents. As a result, there was a steady stream of Latvians to the
      penalty box for hooking and tripping, classic obstruction fouls
      indicative of lesser strength and speed.

      Of course, long before the opening faceoff the largely Latvian crowd was
      whipping itself into a drum-beating, foot-stomping frenzy, but less than
      three minutes into the game Brendan Morrison blew a slapshot past
      Masalskis from the faceoff circle to the goalie's right to give Canada
      the early lead.

      Far from being unnerved by the score, the Latvians picked up the tempo
      and struck less than a minute later when Sheldon Souray lost the puck in
      the corner. This created a 2-on-1 in close, and Leonids Tambijevs made a
      great, cross-crease pass to Aleksandrs Semjenovs to tie the game.

      The second period began the same way. After a brief time of being hemmed
      in by the Latvians, Canada struck for another power play goal. Dan Boyle
      made a sensational pass while falling down away from the goal to Scott
      Walker in the slot, and he set up Joe Thornton at the side of the net.

      Again, the Latvians tied the game when goalie Martin Brodeur's clearing
      pass was intercepted. Girts Arkipans was all alone in front and put the
      puck in the open side, but Brodeur reached across to grab it. The
      Latvians claimed that the glove, however, was inside the net when he
      reached back, and video replay confirmed their hopes, making it 2-2.

      At even strength, the Latvians did, indeed, create a wall in the neutral
      zone, but that defensive strategy was useless when they were down a man.
      With the game tied 2-2 in the second, the Canadian power play took
      control. It scored for a third time at 14:00 when defenceman Ed
      Jovanovski made a great backdoor pass to Rick Nash, and a minute and a
      half later Patrick Marleau converted a perfect pass from Dany Heatley
      from behind the net to give Canada a 4-2 lead.

      The eventual game-winner came two minutes later, though, when Nash
      stormed the length of the ice on the right wing, his off wing, with
      Karlis Skrastins draped all over him. Nash just ploughed his way to the
      goal and as he was being pulled down he slid the puck under Masalskis,
      who gave up on the post and allowed the puck to slide under him. That
      was the end of the night for Masalskis, as coach Leonids Beresnevs
      inserted the veteran Arturs Irbe.

      A wild third period ensued in which the Latvians scored on two long
      shots to draw to within a goal. They stormed back and almost tied the
      game, but Leonids Tambijevs blew a slapshot way wide on a partial
      breakaway. Nash ended the rally with his third of the game off a
      beautiful pass by Thornton from behind Irbe.

      The Canadians will take the win, of course, but they are certainly not
      in peak form. Brodeur was a little shaky (rusty?) and the team's play
      inside its own blueline was hardly acceptable if they hope to advance
      far. The Latvians, however, must be buoyed by a strong offensive
      showing. If they can get better goaltending and keep the goals coming,
      they might go farther than previously expected.
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