Medal time for Canada
2.28.2010 / 06:15 PM ET.
Huge cheers for Roberto Luongo, the hometown goaltender. A big cheer for Jarome Iginla, usually a target of boos as a member of the hated Calgary Flames. Big cheers for everyone wearing a maple leaf, leading up to a roar for the final medal recipient-- Sidney Crosby.
The chant is "Can-a-da."
It stops only when "O Canada" is played -- and sung by the capacity crowd and everyone wearing red and white.
The Canadian anthem is followed by fireworks, and then, as the Americans trickle away to the locker room, the Canadians come together for a group photo at center ice. After that, in lieu of skating around the ice with the Stanley Cup, the Canadians skated around with their flag. The crowd got its wish after chanting for both Luongo and Crosby to skate with the flag as the Canadians took a few final turns before heading off to the locker room for the last time.
Tomorrow, it's back to their regular jobs -- as NHL players chasing the Stanley Cup!
Cheers for the U.S., too
2.28.2010 / 06:09 PM ET.
Canadian fans showing their class and appreciation for the game now. Cheering the Americans as they receive their silver medals.
Parise gets a nice hand.
Kesler, the Vancouver Canuck who tormented Canadians for two weeks, gets a rousing ovation.
Ryan Miller gets a big hand from the folks who know all too well how difficult it was to beat him here.
Canada took 84 shots at Miller in two games.
2.28.2010 / 06:05 PM ET.
They're rolling out the carpeting and bringing out the medals and the stands now.Canada Hockey Place is jubilant. And why not?
Team Canada overcame withering pressure and managed to function at an astounding level against an American team that played its guts out. The Canadians overcame two late-game collapses to show the kind of heart and big-game pedigree that only very few have.
This rivalry isn't about the Americans needing to earn respect from the Canadians anymore. Nor should there be any doubt about the resolve of this Canadian bunch or the commitment of these NHL professionals, who played for national pride for the last two weeks and were willing to put their bodies and livelihoods on the line to do it.
"Cros-by! Cros-by!" is the chant.
Now it's:" Luuuuu!" And Roberto Luongo takes a bit of a twirl -- the hockey curtain call.
And now: "Ca-Na-Da! Ca-Na-Da!"
2.28.2010 / 05:55 PM ET.
Niedermayer turnover. Pavelski spinning rocket. Luongo stops.
Who else? Sidney Crosby!!!!!!!!!
At 7:40 of overtime.
Canada's golden boy wins gold for Canada.
Crosby back up the right wall. He and Rafalski get tangled when the puck gets in the skates of referee Bill McCreary.
Who becomes immortal?
2.28.2010 / 05:45 PM ET.
Will we have another Paul Henderson for Canada?
Or another Mike Eruzione for the United States?
Does Ryan Miller's ridiculous run for the Americans end with gold?
Or does Vancouver Canuck Roberto Luongo win it for the home team in his professional home city?
And how long can NHLers play 4-on-4 without a goal being scored?
Team USA forces OT
2.28.2010 / 05:33 PM ET.
The building is on its feet. Phenomenal!
Toews lifts it to center. U.S. back in.
Pavelski throws to front. Kane throws on goal, off Langenbrunner's skate. Rebound sitting. Parise wraps it around Luongo's right pad with 24.4 left!!!!! It's tied!!!!!
We've got 20 minutes of 4-on-4 overtime ahead.
If it's still tied, we go to a shootout.
Both teams thought overtime began right away and remained on their benches. Officials had to tell them to head to their dressing rooms.
Time for everybody to take a breath and for the resurfacing machines to do their work.
Can it get any better than this?
2.28.2010 / 05:28 PM ET.
2:09 left. Canada out of its defensive shell. Team USA desperate to mount a rally.
Icing Canada with 2:02 left.
Canada gets it out. Morrow gets it deep.
Miller out with 1:29 left. Puck sitting in the slot. Kesler whacking away trying to get free for a shot. Luongo gloves a flipper.
1:17 left. Time out USA. Face-off to Luongo's right.
Running out of time
2.28.2010 / 05:20 PM ET.
Canadians are sending in one man and lining up four in the neutral zone. They're in lock-down mode with 5 minutes left.
All-Tournament team has been named:
Defensemen: Rafalski, Weber
Forwards: Demitra, Toews, Parise
MVP: Ryan Miller
2.28.2010 / 05:13 PM ET.
Sidney Crosby doing the little things that make him not just an elite scorer but an all-around superstar. Closes quickly to block a slapper by Ryan Suter, who had walked to the middle and had a good angle with traffic in front.
9:03 left and a draw coming up in the Canadian zone. The tension is building.
A little luck
2.28.2010 / 04:53 PM ET.
The Americans dodged a couple of early bullets in the third.
2.28.2010 / 04:53 PM ET.
Twenty minutes to a gold medal.
Can the Americans come from behind for the first time since they've been in Vancouver? Can the Canadians put this one away -- or will they have to endure another last-minute of terror, as they did against Slovakia?
Can Ryan Miller continue to stand in there against the unprecedented skill and power that the Canadians are bringing to his crease? Can Patrick Kane or Zach Parise stamp themselves as the newest American Olympic heroes?
When we arrived here two weeks ago, this is exactly what we wanted. Don't forget to enjoy the moment -- whatever your rooting interest.
Canada 2-1 after 2
2.28.2010 / 04:45 PM ET.
Eric Staal breaking in behind the U.S. defense. Suter breaks his stick with a desperation slash. Staal misses the net. No penalty.
The battle has been joined.
Both creases are no-holds-barred zones. This is old-time NHL playoffs -- slot battling with the game played at modern-day speed.
U.S. gets one back
2.28.2010 / 04:33 PM ET.
The Americans have arrived.
Patrick Kane wheeling down the right side, Ryan Kesler driving to the net. Kane flips a shot toward the crease. Kesler gets just enough to redirect it and the puck handcuffs Roberto Luongo and squirts through and over the line.
It's 2-1 Canada with 7:16 left in the second.
U.S. steps it up
2.28.2010 / 04:30 PM ET.
Finally, some intensity from the American side to match what the Canadians have been bringing.
The other way, Ryan Miller makes a save and tries to cover with his glove. Canada comes hard and it takes all five American skaters to surround the net and get a whistle.
2.28.2010 / 04:23 PM ET.
U.S. power play generates no zone time. Then, back to even strength, three American forwards get caught deep on a no-hope forecheck.
Ryan Getzlaf's feed for Patrick Marleau in front is broken up by U.S. defenseman Ryan Whitney. But Whitney touches it back into his own slot rather than slamming it to safety. It's a sitter for the onrushing Corey Perry, who beats the helpless Ryan Miller to the glove side.
It's 2-0 Canada and the Americans aren't putting up much of a fight.
Dueling power plays
2.28.2010 / 04:15 PM ET.
Eric Staal takes Drury into the wall away from the puck. U.S. power play now.
2.28.2010 / 04:00 PM ET.
The first period ends with a flurry.
Ryan Callahan zips down the right side to create an American chance that Roberto Luongo turns aside. As the play turns back up ice, U.S. defenseman Jack Johnson flips Eric Staal with a hip at the buzzer. The teams come together and there is plenty of pawing and jawing.
Bottom line from the first 20 minutes: While Canada wasn't nearly as territorially dominant as it had been in the first period against the Americans in their group play meeting last Sunday, they were the far smarter team on the ice.
Canada limited flurries around Luongo, and Duncan Keith was on the spot to clean up the one puck that got behind the Canadian goaltender. Team Canada also made sure it almost always had three men back to prevent against odd-man U.S. rushes.
In contrast, the Americans committed about a half-dozen unnecessary icings that resulted in way too many faceoffs in their own zone. That's a recipe for disaster against a team as big, fast and skilled as Canada. And what was only a matter of time became a Canadian goal.
--John DellapinaCanada strikes first
2.28.2010 / 03:45 PM ET.
Too many D-zone face-offs for the Americans. Too much O-zone time for the Canadians finally added up to the game's first goal for Team Canada.
Paul Stastny, who tried to catch a pass in his skates and wound up missing it for an icing, won the ensuing draw, but Canada was hard on the puck. Erik Johnson's in-tight pass to Brian Rafalski was stripped by Mike Richards, who got off a quick shot.
Miller made the save, but Jonathan Toews was left alone off the right post to pot the rebound.
First time in the tournament Team USA has trailed. First goal against Miller in 124:28.
2.28.2010 / 03:38 PM ET.
More faceoffs in the American end than in the Canadian end so far. Even with the success of U.S. centers in the circles here, that's dangerous.
At 9:51 into the game, Backes beats Doughty with an outside-in move and jam. Roberto Luongo stops it, but Pat Kane jams. With the puck sitting behind Luongo but a few inches from the goal line, Canadian defenseman Duncan Keith tucks it back under his goaltender and referee Bill McCreary blows the play dead.
Feeling each other out
2.28.2010 / 03:30 PM ET.
A bit cautious to start. But both teams have gotten cycles going.
Americans coming hard in the offensive zone. Canadians have countered twice with 3-on-2s.
It's tense but nobody is backing off. Defensemen on both teams are standing up in the neutral zone and joining the rush.
Ready to rock
2.28.2010 / 03:08 PM ET.
This might be Vancouver, but the fans inside Canada Hockey Place have reproduced the C of Red. This time, however, the C stands for Canada, not Calgary, as it did during the Flames' run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004.
Needless to say, while there are several dozen American flags waving and a few blue-clad fans wearing USA sweaters, this is a Canadian crowd. Though the home team -- which technically is classified as the visitors today because the Americans finished higher in pool play -- is wearing white, most of the crowd is in its red Team Canada sweaters.
There is one small pocket of American fans -- family members and friends of Team USA players -- clustered together behind the net that Ryan Miller will defend twice.
Among the many intramural connections in this game: All three New York-area teams are represented heavily on the respective benches. New Jersey Devils coach Jacques Lemaire is a Team Canada assistant coach while New York Rangers and New York Islanders coaches John Tortorella and Scott Gordon, respectively, are assisting Ron Wilson with Team USA.
Also, Rangers medical trainer Jim Ramsay is playing the same role for Team Canada while Rangers massage therapist Bruce Lifrieri is working out the muscular kinks for Team USA.
Ten minutes to faceoff.
Gold Medal game approaches
2.28.2010 / 01:48 PM ET.
Even though people were jamming the streets of Vancouver amid fireworks and general revelry late into last night, plenty already were out and about by 8:30 this morning.
Is there something going on here today?
A street hockey game broke out on the part of Granville Street that has been transformed into a pedestrian walkway -- complete with nets. Canada vs. Canada.
The lines -- or line-ups in the local vernacular -- already were long for the local sports bars, which had not yet opened, by 9 a.m.
At Canada Hockey Place, the press box that normally hasn't filled until just before puck-drops already is pretty packed -- that despite the fact that random screenings today were replaced by mandatory bag checks and walks through the magnetometers for every media person and volunteer entering the building. That made for pretty long lines, except for actor Donald Sutherland, who was able to cut right to the front, according to Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Opening faceoff in 90 minutes. NHLers playing for Olympic gold today. It is a privilege to be here.
Finland storms back, wins bronze
2.27.2010 / 12:20 AM ET.
Just when it looked like Slovakia was set to win its first-ever medal in team competition and Finland was going quietly into this good Vancouver night, everything changed.
It started just four seconds after the Finns failed to cash in on a 5-on-3 advantage. Still up a man, Niklas Hagman got the puck past Jaroslav Halak, who had been flawless since the first period, and at the 5:06 mark their deficit was trimmed to a goal.
Then Olli Jokinen took over. Just 1:35 later, he drew the Finns even and exactly two minutes after that, at the 8:41 mark, he scored the bronze-winning goal on another power play with Marian Hossa off for tripping.
Slovakia pulled Halak with about 1:40 remaining, during the final seconds of a power play created after Joni Pitkanen was sent off for tripping. On the ensuing 6-on-4, Richard Zednik had a great opportunity in front but Miikka Kiprusoff stoned him on a shot off a rolling puck and managed to cover during a mad scramble in his crease.
Valtteri Filppula then clinched the bronze by scoring into an empty net with 10.6 remaining. What a comeback for the Finns to salvage a medal after the severe disappointment of Friday’s semifinal loss to Team USA and facing a two-goal deficit with 20 minutes left Saturday.
-- Brian Hunter
Slovakia strikes for three
2.27.2010 / 11:32 PM ET.
Slovakia's Marian Gaborik is indeed playing tonight. His first period was pedestrian, but he picked up the scoresheet pace in the middle period. After drawing a delay of game penalty, he tied the score on a power-play one-timer from the slot off another great pass in this tournament from Pavol Demitra, last noticed scaring the breath out of Team Canada fans when his shove at the goalmouth late in Friday's semifinal was barely tipped by the long reach of Roberto Luongo's gloved arm.
The Slovaks killed two more penalties in this period, thanks to Jaroslav Halak making all required saves, plus Zdeno Chara policing the front of the net. Los Angeles King Michal Handzus was active and effective on PK, too. This 1-1 game might well come down to a variation on the old sports saying: whichever team has the last power play, wins it.
Lasse Kukkonen just took his second cross-checking penalty of the game. Within 22 seconds, Marian Hossa was sticking in a short pass from Handzus, who is apparently good on the power play too. Demitra got the assist. And if you don't think playing for bronze means much, consider this: After Hossa scored on a nifty control of the puck with his skates so he could tap it in with his stick, he literally was jumping up and down on the ice, hopping like a kid on an outdoor pond.
Late in the period, Slovakia's Branko Radivojevic took a double minor for high-sticking the Finns' Olli Jokinen. But in the offensive zone, Teemu Selanne sent a no-look pass out of reach and out of the zone. Hossa sprinted for the semi-break, drew the defenseman and passed to a streaking Demitra. He didn't miss this time, beating Kiprusoff. After two, Slovakia is up two goals but facing another 1:55 shorthanded.
-- Bob Condor
2.27.2010 / 10:40 PM ET.
Slovakia goalie Jaroslav Halak is picking up Saturday night where he left off Friday -- by making a fistful of big saves to keep his team in the game. The Montreal Canadiens have found themselves a goalie for the stretch drive, which for them starts Tuesday night in Boston. Halak's best save of the first 20 minutes was blocking a laser from Finland defenseman Joni Pitkanen despite heavy traffic in front of the Slovak net. Halak bought his offensive-minded teammates some time; the Slovaks don't look quite revved up as yet, despite two power-play opportunities.
On the other end of the rink, Miikka Kiprusoff finished the period without incident or many quality chances on his goal. He needed a zero and will no doubt work hard in the next 40 minutes.
Make no mistake. None of the NHL players (31 combined on the two rosters) are going through the motions. Bronze has meaning here tonight. Slovak captain Zdeno Chara, who knows his Boston Bruins club has some standings climbing to do starting against his Slovak teammate Halak on Tuesday, was banging a few Finns. Niklas Hagman seemed to the get the worst of it on one Chara check, looking a bit wobbly when he headed back to his bench after a mid-period shift.
Finland earned a power play late. Sami Salo, the former Canucks defenseman, kept an errant puck in the offensive zone, skated up one stride and rocketed a compact slapper past Halak, who stopped 11 of 12 shots. Finland up, 1-0.
-- Bob Condor
The bronze perspective
2.27.2010 / 9:51 PM ET.
Playing the bronze medal game of the Olympic hockey tournament can be considered different ways. That is certainly the case here as the puck is about to drop between Finland and Slovakia at Canada Hockey Place.
On one side, Finland is reeling from a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Americans. You might think the Finns would pass on this game if given the opportunity. After all, bronze will be a disappointment after finishing with silver in 2006. This team had designs on gold -- it has won two silvers and two bronzes over the last five Olympiads but never the gold -- especially with the Calgary Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff in goal this time around as the possible game-stealer against Team USA.
Well, didn't work out. But after the early semifinal game Friday some Finnish players, notably defenseman Sami Lepisto quickly made it clear that rebounding from the American loss would be not only a positive for Finland hockey but also a way to send off Finn teammates who won't likely play another Olympics. Teemu Selanne is the best example. And you have to think Kiprusoff would like to redeem himself after giving up four goals in seven shots before coach Jukka Jalonen yanked his No. 1 goalie while still in the first period of the semifinal. You know the Sutter brothers and the rest of the Calgary front office is pulling for a strong night for Kiprusoff.
The Slovaks finished fifth at the 2006 Games, the best-ever result for the young country. A bronze medal would symbolize a significant step up for the Slovakian hockey movement, which, of course, is not harmed by the presence of the two Marians, Hossa and Gaborik. The Slovaks surprised here over the two weeks, no more vividly than in the final minute of Canada's 3-2 escape in Friday's late semifinal game. Vancouver Canuck and Slovak first-liner Pavol Demitra almost tied the game with less than seconds remaining, only to foiled when Canucks teammate Roberto Luongo got a piece of the puck with his catch glove.
Slovakia would like to show that game and this tournament is its coming-out party in international hockey. Goalie Jaroslav Halak can help punctuate that point tonight with another strong game.
-- Bob Condor
Clock runs out, Canada in final
2.26.2010 / 11:37 PM ET.
Yikes. Three minutes left and Slovakia is suddenly swarming the net on every shift. Hometown Canuck Pavol Demitra just tried to bank a shot off his NHL teammate Luongo and barely missed. Marian Hossa then blasted a shot streaking down the left side that Luongo turned it away, but not without sending the rebound that no Slovak could reach.
The final minute was a blur. Every Slovakian skater left on the ice was sucking oxygen at game's end. Somehow the Slovaks kept the puck in the Canada zone for the entire last minute of play. Hossa and his teammates had three to four legitimate chances to score. In fact, it's almost hard to believe the puck didn't find its way into the net. Most notably and thrillingly, Demitra almost scored at the side of the net in the final 10 seconds.
But the clock went to 0.0 without Slovakia tying it. Canada advances with a 3-2 win.
-- Bob Condor
Slovakia staging a comeback
2.26.2010 / 11:24 PM ET.
The intermittent "We Want USA" chants from the Canada Hockey Place fans started with 14 minutes left in the game. The cheers were interrupted about five minutes later when Slovakia defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky went deep and wide right into the Canada zone. Visnovsky lifted a seemingly harmless shot toward the short side. The puck hit the side of Roberto Luongo's leg pad and found its way over the goal line before Luongo could swipe it out of there. The goal was scored on Slovakia's 12th shot of the game.
Jaroslav Halak made three big-league saves in the following three minutes to keep his squad in the game -- at least theoretically.
Well, maybe more than theoretically. Former NHLer Richard Zednik just outhustled Canada's Drew Doughty for a loose puck behind the net. Zednik went to the far side for a wraparound chance. Luongo made the save, but left the rebound out front for Doughty's Los Angeles Kings teammate Michal Handzus, who promptly scored to make it 3-2 with five minutes left.
Getzlaf makes it 3-0 after two
2.26.2010 / 10:52 PM ET.
Gold-medal fever turned ultra-hot at 16:57 of the middle period. That's when Ryan Getzlaf, just three days ago on Team Canada coach Mike Babcock's You-Need-to-Pick-Up-or-Sit list, rapped a goal past Jaroslav Halak on a primary assist from Anaheim Ducks teammate Corey Perry. Both players endured a sitdown with Babcock, then went out and played their best games of the Olympic tournament in the Russia rout.
The third goal seems like a back-breaker for the Slovakians. About a minute later, Ziggy Palffy did skate into a good chance for Slovakia, but Roberto Luongo made the stop.
Slovakia has nine shots through two periods. Enough said.
Canada continues to assert itself
2.26.2010 / 10:22 PM ET.
Are there fans here already thinking USA-Canada for the Gold on Sunday? You betcha. One of the all-time NHL and Team Canada greats, Paul Coffey, in a jumbo video board interview, just advised the fans here that Slovakia is a good team and can play their way back into it. Not so sure anybody agrees with him. Almost the entire second of the opening period was played in the Slovak end.
At 1:29 into the second period, Canada's Drew Doughty took a hooking penalty. About all the Slovaks could muster on the power play was Marian Gaborik's first shot on goal. Slovakia is definitely playing a physical game. Boston Bruin Zdeno Chara has plastered a couple of Canadians in recent shifts, and just got whistled for roughing. But Slovakia is going to need its finesse game too. Seven shots on goal for the first half of the game is not going to put much scare in Roberto Luongo.
The Chicago Blackhawks' Tomas Kopecky just drilled Canada's Shea Weber at mid-ice. Slovakia leads in this game's hits, but about all that will earn it is match-up with Finland for the bronze medal Saturday night.
Two tips, two goals
2.26.2010 / 10:02 PM ET.
Less than two minutes after Canada scored its opener on what Halak might well have considered a fluky goal, the host nation nailed a second score. This time, the Anaheim Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf parlayed second effort and a push move on the end of his longer-than-normal stick into pass back to Chris Pronger on the point. Pronger put a premium on shooting the puck fast, so he scooped a floater at the goal. Brenden Morrow adjusted the waist-high flight of the puck down toward Halak's skates. Two-nothing, Canada.
Shots on goal for the period: Canada, 10 and Slovakia, 4.
Marleau gets Canada on the board
2.26.2010 / 9:42 PM ET.
Thirteen minutes gone and Slovakia is still in the game, something you can't say was the case for Finland earlier today against Team USA. In fact, the Americans led, 6-0, after the same time span in the afternoon semifinal. Jaroslav Halak has stopped four pucks so far and another three to four have zipped by him, missing the net wide left or right, but not by much.
Halak has played 86 NHL games over parts of four season. Even so, he won the Montreal Canadiens starting job from Carey Price over the last six weeks before the Olympics. He and Slovakia coach Jan Filc were particularly happy the 24-year-old goalie played so regularly in January and February. Halak started eight of the last nine Habs' games, playing well, and has stayed hot here in Vancouver.
But the spell is broken. Canada opens the scoring at 13:30 on a wrist shot (surprise) from Shea Weber at the point. The puck's high flight was redirected by some part of Patrick Marleau's upper body -- it sort of looked like his glove or maybe forearm -- dropping the puck downward like a jar falling off the shelf. Halak didn't stand a chance. The goal was reviewed and upheld.
Slovakia facing long odds
2.26.2010 / 9:05 PM ET.
Nobody is thinking here at Canada Hockey Place that Slovakia stands a chance in tonight's second semifinal, except maybe the Marians -- Gaborik and Hossa -- and a few of their teammates in Slovakian blue.
After beating favored Sweden in the last quarterfinal Wednesday night, the Slovakian team took Thursday off. Well, they did have a team meeting in the evening, but no skate. Peter Bondra, Slovakia's general manager and a 16-year NHL player, explained the no-practice decision: "We are still living in what we accomplished."
But how to explain that Slovakia didn't even use the full warm-up period just now? The team skated off with more than five minutes remaining in the pre-game session. Canada stayed until time expired, rapping pucks at goalie Roberto Luongo. The team arrived to the usual roar and that undercurrent of Loooouuuuu! in honor of hometown hero Luongo.
Winner plays you-know-who at 3:15 p.m. ET Sunday. The Canadians (those guys in the locker room and pretty much everyone in this country) have been waiting six years for this possibility, ever since Vancouver was awarded the Games. Now, a gold-medal game in men's hockey -- with the U.S. as a bonus -- is three periods of sound hockey away.
-- Bob Condor
2.26.2010 / 5:22 PM ET
The final horn has sounded and the Americans begin celebrating. First fist pumping, then some hugging and congratulatory pats on the back.
After a few moments, the jubilant members of Team USA skate to center ice for handshakes with their opponents, a Finland squad that was overwhelmed in the first period and never recovered.
The deflated Finns raise their sticks in appreciation for the fans, then it's the Americans turn.
Both ends of the spectrum now for these two combatants.
It's American pride, contrasted with exasperated looks for those donned in White and Blue.
- Darryl Haberman
2.26.2010 / 5:15 PM ET
Fan trash talking already has begun.
Canadian fans serenading Tim Thomas with derisive chant after he allowed a goal.
Americans responded with "U-S-A!" That was booed.
Canadians then chanting: "We want the Yanks!"
American fans respond: "We want Canada!"
- John Dellapina
Giving perfection a rest
2.26.2010 / 4:56 PM ET
Ryan Miller continues to be razor sharp.
No, the Finns aren't coming at him like the crease-crashing Canadians will -- or the Slovakians if they can pull off the stunner of these Games.
With 11:31 Team USA goes back on the power play.
And in a classy/intelligent gesture, Ron Wilson pulls Ryan Miller and inserts Tim Thomas. Good for Thomas, a top-shelf guy who had to have thought he'd be the No. 1 here before the NHL season began, only to see Miller play out of his mind for Buffalo while Thomas and Bruins were sorting things out over the schedule's first few months.
Miller made 18 saves. He hasn't allowed a goal since Sidney Crosby beat him with 3:09 left in the Group A finale on Sunday. That's 111:38 of shutout hockey for the Americans and their goaltender.
- John Dellapina
Adequate preparation for USA?
2.26.2010 / 4:36 PM ET
And, after an exchange of punts, we move to later action in the third quarter.
Sorry about the obscure reference -- those of you of a certain age probably know that was how Lindsey Nelson used to explain the condensation of the Notre Dame football highlights that went out to the world before every game of every sport was televised, streamed and blogged.
At any rate, the second period came and went without incident -- and without any goals scored. Shots on goal a little more even in that period: 9-7 Americans.
And the questions now are:
Does this adequately prepare Team USA for a Gold Medal game? Is there any way the Finns give their net back to Miikka Kiprusoff for the Bronze Medal game?
Marc Denis, the former NHL goaltender who has done tireless work here as the in-house interviewer whose work is broadcast on the center video board, just pulled aside Vince Vaughn. Clad in a Team USA jersey, Vaughn pleased the crowd by saying that Vancouver is a beautiful city.
But when Denis asked him about a possible Canada-U.S. gold medal matchup, he couldn't resist.
Referring to Team USA's 5-3 victory in Group play, Vaughn said: "Well, we've already settled that once."
- John Dellapina
Staying on alert
2.26.2010 / 4:21 PM ET
The predominantly Canadian crowd cannot be amused by what they are watching. Team Canada jerseys are the garb of choice here and those wearing them undoubtedly were hoping the Finns could, at the very least, soften up the Americans for their boys.
Team USA is paying attention to detail now.
The Americans always have a third forward high to prevent any odd-man rushes against.
Ryan Miller is alert and on his angles.
Ryan Kesler dives to break up a pass headed for Valteri Filppula. Erik Johnson blocks a shot.
Though the game has settled down into what looks like killing time between two teams that know the outcome has been decided, the Americans appear determined not to let this ice time go to waste.
- John Dellapina
Health the biggest goal now
2.26.2010 / 4:01 PM ET
Staying sharp and staying healthy are prime American goals now.
And Tim Gleason just took a Joni Pitkanen slapper in the right forearm. It wasn't a Shea Weber slapper, so Gleason still has the use of that arm. Still...
Gleason is back on for his next shift 4:25 into the period. Apparently none the worse for the incident.
- John Dellapina
2.26.2010 / 3:46 PM ET
Don't know who was more relieved to hear that first-period-ending horn, the Finns or the scorekeepers.
Finland is so out of this that, on the final, offensive-zone draw with 1.3 seconds remaining, they pulled Backstrom for an extra attacker and nobody jumped on.
Didn't matter. Chris Drury attacked that draw as if his life depended on it. Saku Koivu, who probably can't believe this is happening, didn't even contest it.
- John Dellapina
No easing up
2.26.2010 / 3:36 PM ET
Is there a mercy rule in that IIHF code?
It's 6-0 now and the Americans are deciding whether to send in their place-kicker or go for two.
Kane, whose Olympic drought most definitely is over, picked the far side off a two-on-one to greet Niklas Backstrom rudely.
Parise then won yet another race to a dump-in, nudged to Jamie Langenbrunner who relayed to Paul Stastny for the chip-in goal that made it 6-0. On only 11 shots.
Kane just got loose on another two-on-one. This time, he hit Backstrom in the belly with his shot.
Scoring in bunches
2.26.2010 / 3:26 PM ET
The Americans are ready. The Finns? Not so much.
It's 3-0 now on power-play goals 2:14 apart by Zach Parise and Erik Johnson.
Unnecessary penalties by Finland both times -- away from the puck hits by Janne Niskala and Toni Lydman on Ryan Kesler and Dustin Brown, respectively.
U.S. power play lethal both times.
Whoops! It's 4-0 and Mikka Kiprusoff has skated directly to the Finnish bench, apparently pulling himself, as is not uncommon in European hockey.
Pat Kane, who had yet to find his stride here, went the other way off a Niklas Hagman turnover. Kane's initial shot produced a juicy rebound. And with Dustin Brown in Kiprusoff's face, Kane collected the puck and easily flipped it home.
That's four goals on seven shots for the Americans. And just 10:08 into the game, Kipursoff is out of the game.
2.26.2010 / 3:12 PM ET
Major blunder by Mikka Kiprusoff gives potentially pivotal first goal to Team USA.
At the end of a good grinding shift by the Finns, Ryan Malone just chips a puck down the ice. Kiprusoff comes out to play it as Phil Kessel hustles to pressure and the Finnish D (Pitkanen and Lydman) peel off left and right. Kiprusoff plays it up the middle -- bad choice.
Malone collects and fires at the open net -- Kessel was the closest man there -- for a 1-0 American lead just 2:04 in.
Ready for the semis
2.26.2010 / 2:42 PM ET
Will Pat Kane finally have his Olympic bust-out game? Can Ryan Miller keep it up? Is today the day that Teemu Selanne and/or Saku Koivu find the back of the net? Will Miikka Kiprusoff have to make a second save all day?
We're a half-hour away from Olympic semifinal No. 1 -- Finland vs. the United States.
Team USA is wearing its navy blues with "USA" in an arc across the chest. The Finns are in their snazzy whites, "SUOMI" on their chests.
Jari Kurri is on the Finnish bench 30 years and two days after he and Team Finland put a scare into the Miracle on Ice Americans but could not prevent them from completing their gold medal run.
Behind the U.S. bench, a couple of Finnish fans are hoisting gigantic cardboard cutouts of the images of Kimmo Timonen's and Jarkko Ruutu's heads -- complete with Finland headbands. We'll see if that works better than when Felix and Oscar tried to psyche out Bobby Riggs at ping pong by wearing a big picture of Billie Jean King.
As usual, the dominant color in the stands is red -- as in Canadian red. Wonder whom the Canadian fans will be pulling for?
Three in a row for Canada
2.25.2010 / 9:07 PM ET
With a surge of energy and relentess effort Canada's two first period goals were enough to get them what they had dreamt about - gold on home soil.
The Canadians weren't going to be denied this chance of a lifetime, backed by a crowd that helped keep the momentum on their side.
The Canadians went hard at the Americans with short shifts, not allowing them an opportunity to pull their goaltender until only 13 seconds were left on the clock. U.S. goaltender Jessie Vetter twice stopped Canadians in all alone to keep her team in it, but it just wasn't enough.
In a game where little separates the two teams, one golden difference today sat between the pipes for Canada -- Shannon Szabados. Team USA battled hard, putting countless quality shots on net, but it was Szabados shutting the door, no matter how many or how good the shot was. A 28-save shutout in the gold medal game is nothing short of spectacular.
With their male counterparts looking on Team Canada had what they set out to receive -- a gold medal around their necks.
The crowd at Canada Hockey Place, appreciating the skill and determination that they watched on the ice, stayed to cheer on all three teams as they received their medals - a "U-S-A" chant from the Canadian crowd had Team USA clapping back in appreciation.
Gold for Canada, silver for the U.S., bronze for Finland -- and for everyone watching, just a phenomenal display of women's hockey.
Canada stays on top
2.25.2010 / 8:07 PM ET
It was a scoreless, physical second period, but not one devoid of excitement. A fired-up U.S. team, not happy with the first-period score, came out blazing -- testing Szabados just 20 seconds into the second.
After almost a two-minute 5-on-3 advantage that didn't result in a goal for the U.S., the team looked tentative and appeared to tighten the grip on their sticks, perhaps the pressure for the first goal growing.
But Team USA returned to the group that we are used to seeing right after a gut-wrenching penalty kill performance that lasted the full two minutes for the same four U.S. players. It seemed to be just the push they needed as they held the majority of the play heading into intermission.
Despite being outshot 13-10 that period, goaltender Szabados continued to be the best player on the ice for the Canadians, making glove save after glove save.
With the game still in reach for the Americans, it's going to be a fight to the finish.
2-0 Canada after one
2.25.2010 / 7:22 PM ET
The only separation in the first period of play between these two evenly matched teams was Marie-Philip Poulin. The 18-year-old forward for Canada, who is being called the "Sidney Crosby of women’s hockey," proved exactly why she is earning that comparison by scoring both of Canada’s goals.
After a back-and-forth period that saw Canada stave off a 5-on-3 disadvantage and goaltenders Jessie Vetter and Shannon Szabados trade athletic glove saves, Poulin finally hit twine with a one-timer over Vetter’s shoulder at 13:55. Jennifer Botterill made the precise feed from the left corner to an open Poulin in the top of the slot.
The U.S. put on pressure at the other end, with the penalty box looking like a revolving door, but Szabados made it through period one unblemished with a number of excellent saves.
Poulin struck again, after a penalty by Jinelle Zaugg nullified a U.S. man-advantage and sent the face-off deep into the Americans' zone. After Canada won the draw, she snapped home another puck, this time under the glove of Vetter at 16:50.
The shots were 8-7 in favor of Canada, and the play much closer than a 2-0 score.
Period 2 awaits.
-- Jen Raimondi
Battling to the bitter end
2.25.2010 / 6:25 PM ET
A rivalry builds through time, repetition and significant wins and losses. It's at its best when the stakes are high and the opposition fresh in mind. No stakes are higher and no opponent more familiar than in today's women's gold medal matchup between Canada and the U.S.
These teams have played each other ad nauseam, battling to the brink every time they hit the ice. There are no illusions entering today's game - these teams do not like each other.
The rivalry has been likened to the Stanley Cup Final, but as if it was played over and over every year with the same two teams.
This is the 92nd matchup between these two teams -- and it hasn't even been 20 years since the first IIHF World Championships were played in March 1990.
Look for tournament point leaders and dynamic duo Meghan Agosta (9-5-14) and Jayna Hefford (5-7-12) to be an offensive threat for Canada while goaltender Jessie Vetter and defenseman Angela Ruggiero for the U.S. try to shut them down. Vetter, who has looked unbeatable at times, has been solid for the American squad posting a .976 save-percentage and a 0.33 goals-against average.
Canada won the 2009-10 season series 7-3, but the U.S. has won the last two World Championships (2008, 2009) and the latest Four Nations Tournament (2009). Who will win today is anyone's best guess, but one thing is for sure, it will be an emotional battle to the gold medal finish.
We'll see how both sides fare with their nerves in just a few minutes when the puck drops here at Canada Hockey Place.
-- Jen Raimondi
Olympic final four set
2.25.2010 / 2:22 AM ET
There are six yellow shirts skating desperately around the Slovak zone, but Jaroslav Halak stops one last shot with a second left, and gets mobbed by Slovakia teammates now in his crease. The goal comes unhinged and so does Sweden's mission to earn another gold medal. All those Swedish Red Wings miss a date with Mike Babcock and lose to former mates Hossa and Kopecky.
In the post-game handshakes, Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist exchange hugs.
Haven't checked the math, but the guess here is the Blackhawks are the NHL team with the most remaining players in the Olympic tournament. Two here celebrating with their Slovakian teammates, Pat Kane with the Americans and three more on Team Canada.
Back tomorrow for the women's gold medal match between Team USA and Team Canada. What if Sunday brings the same on the men's side of the Olympic ice hockey tournament?
-- Bob Condor
Never a dull moment ...
2.25.2010 / 1:58 AM ET
The Slovaks started the period by killing off two penalties, thanks to stellar goaltending from Jaroslav Halak.
Then about nine minutes in, it appeared Slovakia took a major step toward the Olympics semifinals and medal dreams when Tomas Kopecky, the former Detroit Red Wing and less famous Slovakian player with the Chicago Blackhawks, tapped in his team's fourth, finishing off a centering pass from Marian Hossa, another former Red Wing and more famous Slovakian player with the Blackhawks. Kopecky practically leaped into the arms of teammate Pavol Demitra. This playing for your country thing excites these athletes.
But, as previously and respectfully noted, this is Sweden, the 2006 gold medal team with four, count 'em, four current Red Wings looking for a Friday matchup against Detroit and Team Canada coach Mike Babcock. Just 22 seconds after Kopecky scored, the Swedes answered on a Daniel Alfredsson goal teed up by a heat-finding feed from behind the net by Nicklas Backstrom, whose passing display in this tournament is rivaled only, perhaps, by Team Canada center Jonathan Toews.
Four minutes left, hold on to your Halak.
-- Bob Condor
You want to play Slovakia? Are you sure?
2.25.2010 / 1:37 AM ET
Team Canada fans might be thinking that Slovakia would be a preferred semifinal foe to Sweden.
Be careful what you wish for.
In a span of 37 second about halfway into the second period, the Slovaks beat Henrik Lundqvist on successive rushes. On a power play (too many men on the ice), the Marians used the extra open space -- not a lot of that during even strength -- to work some Olympic memories. Marian Hossa passed cross-ice to Marian Gaborik, who one-timed it past Lundqvist, sliding but clearly holding his focus on the wrong Marian for too long.
Back at equal strength, Richard Zednik (please see the previous entry in this blog roll) took a loose puck from the top of the Slovakia defensive zone and bull-rushed down rink, drawing defender and threading a pass to Andrej Sekera for a 2-0 lead just like that.
But this is Sweden, after all, the defending gold medal team. Incredibly, maybe eerily or just plain weirdly, they scored their own two goals in a span of, you guessed it, 37 seconds. Let's call it Slovakia goalie Jaroslav Halak's own personal Twilight Zone. Patric Hornqvist scored the first, pushing home a backhanded twister pass by the venerable Peter Forsberg. Henrik Zetterberg was next, knotting the game at 2-2.
Late in the period, Sweden's Tobias Enstrom took a tripping penalty. On the point for the power play, Slovakia's Pavol Demitra wound up on a slapper that zoomed to the far upper corner of Lundqvist's net. Demitra, who is rounding into form after a lengthy shoulder rehab, plays for the hometown Vancouver Canucks. So take your pick, Demitra on one side and the Semin twins on the other. End of second period, Slovaks up 3-2, cracking the code on King Zero in the Swedish goal.
-- Bob Condor
The Zero King
2.25.2010 / 12:41 AM ET
In a tournament of astonishingly tight games, it appears we are looking at another after a scoreless first period in the quarterfinal nightcap here at Canada Hockey Place. It is zip-zip between Sweden and Slovakia.
Of course, zeroes are a familiar currency for Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has played seven periods of Olympic hockey without allowing a goal. He no doubt has his radar on high alert for New York Rangers teammate Marian Gaborik on the Slovak side, plus the other Marian, Hossa. But here at the Elimination: Vancouver blog, there is room for an X-factor scorer. Tuesday night, in the third period against Norway, Slovakia turned to Miroslav Satan (who in the last year played for Stanley Cup champ, an AHL club and, more recently, the Boston Bruins before getting hurt and almost missing the Olympics).
Tonight it might well be Richard Zednik for Slovakia. He is skating with Satan and Michal Handzus of the Los Angeles Kings. Zednik seems comfortable with the pair, and his scoring touch is not to be overlooked.
Another lively and full house bellowed its approval of big hits in the first period by a couple of Swedish defenseman, Niklas Kronwall (paired with Red Wings teammate and Swedish legend Nick Lidstrom) and Mattias Ohlund. Look for more of the same in the next two periods.
-- Bob Condor
50 minutes and counting down
2.24.2010 / 11:55 PM ET
Still scoreless at the University of British Columbia rink with eight minutes. But it is not for lack of the Czechs trying. Jaromir Jagr whiffed on a sure goal about five minutes into the period. Another minutes later, Jagr etched a cross-ice feed past Finn goalie Miikka Kiprusoff onto the stick of Patrick Elias. But instead of burying it to Kiprusoff's left, Elias bashed the puck into the side of the net.
Then the Czechs ran out of chances and into bad luck. After Martin Erat drew a delay-of-game penalty, the Finns converted on the power play. Defenseman Janne Niskala powered a shot from the point and Niklas Hagman redirected the shot on goal. It squirted through Kiprusoff's pads and past the goal line.
What happened right before the goal is where bad luck comes in. Here's the details from NHL.com's John Dellapina, who is writing the game story.
"The Czechs were the victims of a terrible break that never could have happened in an NHL game.
"Having dived to sweep the puck away from Niklas Hagman, Czech defenseman Filip Kuba lost his helmet. Under IIHF rules, he either had to go directly to the bench or put his helmet back on to continue playing.
"When Kuba went behind the net to retrieve his headgear, Hagman was left alone to screen Czech goaltender Tomas Vokoun. And he did just that, enabling Janne Niskala's point shot to squirt through Vokoun’s pads with 6:26 left in regulation for the game’s winning goal."
With two minutes left, Kiprusoff made just yet another spectacular save (prompting Team USA fans to utter, uh-oh, not another hot European goalie). Then the Finns iced it with an empty-netter. Finns win it, 2-0. They advance to the semifinals to meet the Americans.
-- Bob Condor
Two periods, no goals
2.24.2010 / 11:28 PM ET
After the Canadians and Russians scored goals at a furious pace (mostly the Canadians) in the second game of Wednesday's quarterfinal action, it’s back to a battle of the goaltenders in this one.
The big saves keep coming, as Kiprusoff got his right pad on a good scoring opportunity by Tomas Plekanec with 10:10 remaining in the second.
A delay of game penalty to Olli Jokinen with 4:19 left gave the Czechs just their second power play of the game, and their first full two-minute opportunity. Kiprusoff made a save on an Elias tip from in close in the opening seconds and turned aside a Milan Michalek chance late in the Finland kill.
Unlike the penalty-filled first period, Jokinen's indiscretion was the only one in the second and consequently the period had more up-and-down flow. The Czechs held an 11-10 advantage in shots. Each team has 21 through two periods. Kiprusoff and Vokoun have stopped them all.
-- Brian Hunter
Goalies keep it scoreless
2.24.2010 / 11:08 PM ET
Jaromir Jagr, who left Tuesday's win over Latvia with a sore neck and did not return, is back in the Czech lineup and had an opportunity about a minute into the second period, as he wheeled around the net and came out by the right post for a shot Miikka Kiprusoff stopped. Krejci had a similar opportunity about 40 seconds later and Kiprusoff was again up to the challenge.
Vokoun kept the game scoreless by stopping a couple scoring chances by Jarkko Ruutu. About five minutes into the second he made a tremendous stop to deny Niko Kapanen off a 2-on-1 opportunity down low.
-- Brian Hunter
Finland wasting opportunities
2.24.2010 / 10:40 PM ET
The lone game of Wednesday's quarterfinals being played at the UBC Thunderbird Arena, the Czechs spent much of the first period parading to the penalty box and relying on their shorthanded unit and the goaltending of Tomas Vokoun to keep the Finns off the scoreboard.
Defensemen Roman Polak and Pavel Kubina took penalties just 11 seconds apart, creating a potential lengthy 5-on-3 advantage for Finland less than four minutes into the game. However, a tripping call on Saku Koivu 38 seconds into the two-man knocked it down to just a 4-on-3 power play, and the Czech Republic even had a brief advantage of its own after Kubina got out of the box.
But the Czechs continued to play with fire, as Josef Vasicek went off for holding at 9:07, captain Patrik Elias took a goaltender interference penalty at 12:03 and David Krejci was given two minutes for interference at 15:54. The Finns, whose power play went 0-for-7 in a 3-0 loss to Sweden in pool play Sunday, came up empty on those opportunities as well.
Even with all the time it spent up a man, Finland barely outshot the Czech Republic by an 11-10 margin.
Finland, which won silver four years ago in Torino, hadn't played since that loss to Sweden -- despite finishing second in Group C to the Swedes, the Finns were still able to grab the fourth bye into the quarterfinals.
The Czech Republic, a bronze medalist in the 2006 Games, took the ice for the second straight night after surviving a scare from Latvia in the qualification round and winning 3-2 in overtime on a Krejci goal.
Team USA awaits the winner of this game in one of Friday’s semifinals.
-- Brian Hunter
Settling the score
2.24.2010 / 9:52 PM ET
Russia knocked Canada out of the 2006 Olympics, so Wednesday's night 7-3 win was sweet revenge for Canada fans. It sets up quite a potential weekend for the host country, maybe the greatest week of hockey ever. Is that even possible?
Nine minutes into the final period, the happy maple leafers among us started chanting "Oveeee, Oveeee, Oveeee." Later, they sang, "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye" to the entire Russian team. Another chant: "We want Sweden, We want Sweden," recalling a similar bring-it-on call for Russia last night.
The nonstop cheering started with two minutes left. Everybody on their feet. One final LOOOUUUU yell for hometown hero Roberto Luongo, who stoned Evgeni Malkin on a breakaway midway through the period.
Robson Street will be wild tonight. Team Canada wins it, 7-3.
-- Bob Condor
Out of hand, out of the game
2.24.2010 / 8:38 PM ET
Canada got back at it early in the second period. Just 3:10 into things, Corey Perry scored on the rebound off a charging shot by Anaheim Ducks teammate Ryan Getzlaf. Less than a minute later, Shea Weber drilled one past Evgeni Nabokov; he worked it because of another laser pass from Jonathan Toews (who might be playing the best two-way hockey of this tournament). Canada was up, 6-1.
That marked the end of the 2010 Games for Nabokov, as Ilya Bryzgalov relieved him. Bryzgalov has been one of the NHL's hottest goalies this season; there are some commentators and fans who say the Phoenix Coyotes goaltender should have earned the Russia starting job outright.
Russia notched its second goal just 39 seconds later when Maxim Afinogenov scored on a primary assist from Ilya Kovalchuk. When Bryzgalov chest-thumped a hard shot from Patrick Marleau off a steal in the neutral zone (lots of those tonight) and stopped a Niedermayer rocket just a moments later, it seemed that Russia might be aligned for a momentum shift.
Well, not exactly. At 9:51, Perry re-directed his second goal when Eric Staal threaded the puck to the stick blade. The play started with a Getzlaf steal at the blue line.
Russia's Sergei Gonchar countered a couple of minutes later with a blast from the point that cleared all comers, including Roberto Luongo, who didn't appear to ever see the shot. Gonchar's Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin assisted on the goal, but those two will have be hard-pressed to secure bragging rights with Team Canada's Sidney Crosby when the Pens go back to their regular season next week.
During the early part of the period, Russian coach Vyacheslav Bykov revived the Russians who played for the Washington Capitals last season: Alex Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Semin. But the magic wasn't apparent, at least not yet. For the night, Ovechkin looks like he has broken more sticks -- three in two periods -- than created quality scoring chances.
Twenty more minutes, Team Canada leads 7-3. Maybe a few fans are starting to plan for Friday's semifinals...
-- Bob Condor
Canada opens scoring -- crowd works on roof
2.24.2010 / 7:40 PM ET
The roar was blow-off-the-roof deafening less than three minutes into the game when Ryan Getzlaf took a feed from Dan Boyle and wristed it past Russian goalie Evgeni Nabokov. The play started all the back at the Canadian goal line, where Chris Pronger stood for maybe 10 to 12 seconds waiting for the right teammate to cycle through. Boyle was his pick. Interesting that Boyle was listed in the lineup as the extra defenseman and ends up with a huge assist so early.
As even-strength matchups go, the Richards-Toews-Nash line and Niedermayer-Weber defensive pairing appear to be Mike Babcock's unit of choice when Alex Ovechkin is on the ice. Weber has popped Ovi solidly twice in the first 10 minutes.
If the first goal was noisy, Canada's second score was supersonic. Dan Boyle handled it himself this time, 12 minutes into the period on a power play, shooting a stride inside the point and getting screen help from a leaping Patrick Marleau
Then, quick as that, Mike Richards steals the puck at his own blue line, outlets to Toews, who threads a perfect pass to a streaking Rick Nash--he was flying past even Richards. Nash flips it past Nabokov. Remember, we're talking the Assigned Bother Ovie Line here. Place goes bonkers and men are literally dancing in the aisles.
By the way, a Craigslist ad two hours before puck drop advertised two tickets "centre aisle" five rows from the ice on sale for $4.000. Gonna buy you a lot of noise and dancing tonight.
The home country crowd was barely doused when Russian D-man Dmitri Kalinin scored on a rocket from his left point, rattling the goal cage. His defensive partner, Anton Volchenkov, and, you'll know this name, Sergei Fedorov got the assists.
With just under two minutes left in the first period, Brenden Morrow took a puck from behind the net, wrapped around unscathed by any Russian foe and Nabokov on the short side.
You do have to wonder if Ilya Bryzgalov will start the second period, even if Nabokov faced practically a game's worth of shots (21) in the opening 20 minutes compared to 12 for Roberto Luongo. The Canada goalie has not been sternly tested as yet by Ovi and crew, but he looks sharp enough so far. Great start for Canada, but no one here is thinking Sweden in the semifinals quite yet.
-- Bob Condor
Roaring to go
2.24.2010 / 7:24 PM ET
It's just less than hour before puck drop, and Canada Hockey Place is filling up. There have been friendly shout-down of Russia and Canada cheers, complete with the requisite waving of large flags.
Team Russia skated out for the beginning of warmups (no Canada yet, four minutes into the 20-minute session) to a scattering of boos. One thing you notice about the Russians, many more of them take the time to stretch out, something you typically only see with goalies in North America.
Canada just arrived to a roar from the three-quarter full house. That's 40 minutes until the game begins. People are standing. Team Canada jersey count: Let's call it 7 out of every 10 fans, save those fans draped in Russia's colors. The Russians are wearing red tonight and Canada comes with white. So expect a lot of Red Sea and Sea of Red headlines on the Web and in newspapers.
While this building's decibel output won't seem like it, Russia is the home team. So any last calls on line matchups will be the privilege of Russia coach Vyacheslav Bykov.
Here are the Canada lines: Iginla-Staal-Crosby (no surprise after Tuesday's lopsided win over Germany), Marleau-Heatley-Thornton, Toews-Richards-Nash and Perry-Bergeron-Getzlaf. The top line for Russia is Ovechkin-Malkin-Semin and the second combo is Datsyuk-Afinogenov-Kovalchuk.
-- Bob Condor
USA survives on Parise's pair
2.24.2010 / 5:17 PM ET
Team USA got a pair of goals from Zach Parise, including an empty net goal with 11.2 seconds left, to survive and move into the semifinals with a 2-0 win. They will play the winner of the Czech-Finland game later today. Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller made 42 saves, but it wasn't enough. Ryan Miller stopped all 19 shots he faced.
The Americans finally struck just 2:08 into the period with a power-play goal from Parise, who tipped Brian Rafalski's shot from the point while in the slot. The puck crossed the goal mouth and Hiller couldn't reach it with either his catching glove or his right skate. It crawled through the small opening between his skate and the left post.
The Swiss nearly tied it, but Sandy Jeannin's shot from the left side hit off the inside of the right post and came out. Kesler was there to clear it away. The red light even came on signaling a goal and the Swiss started to celebrate, but play continued.
Shortly after, it appeared the Americans scored when Ryan Suter's shot from the top of the left circle found the back of the net. However, the goal was waved off by referee Paul Devorski, who called a high sticking penalty on Ryan Kesler for knocking off Mathias Seger's helmet.
After that play, the officials went to review Jeannin's shot just to confirm it was not a goal.
The Americans killed off Kesler's penalty by getting two key blocks from Tim Gleason and Chris Drury. Seconds after Kesler left the box, Parise rang a shot off the post with 13:15 to play.
Switzerland called a timeout with 1:43 to play and pulled Hiller coming out of it. Switzerland attacked hard with the man advantage, but Parise had a good pinch on the left wing boards, freeing up the puck. He chased it down and with 11.2 seconds left shot the puck into the empty net from the left circle.
-- Dan Rosen
Still scoreless after two, but barely
2.24.2010 / 4:30 PM ET
Team USA needed another tenth of a second to take a 1-0 lead, but the period is only 20 minutes long and that wasn't enough time. A near buzzer beating goal by Ryan Kesler was waved off after video review when replays showed the puck had not crossed the goal line before the clock ticked down to 0.0.
Kesler just threw the puck at the net from the goal line. Jonas Hiller batted it up in the air with his stick, but the puck went back at him and it crawled over his left shoulder and eventually tip-toed into the net. However, not in enough time.
It was an incredible finish to what really was another U.S. dominated period. However, Team USA failed brutally on three power play chances and couldn't solve Hiller again on 14 shots. They are outshooting the Swiss, 32-8, but that doesn't matter right now.
-- Dan Rosen
USA-Swiss in scoreless tie; Hiller steps up
2.24.2010 / 3:40 PM ET
The great fear for any favorite is running into a hot goalie, and Switzerland's Jonas Hiller appears on his game today. Hiller was sharp in stopping all 18 shots he faced in an American dominated first period that still ended in a scoreless tie.
Ryan Miller was tested for only a brief moment about midway through the period when the U.S. turned the puck over twice in its own end leading to three shots for the Swiss. Other than that, the Americans were forechecking hard and in the final 10 minutes start to dominate on the cycle.
It didn't matter. Hiller was too good, and he got help from the right post on Phil Kessel's hard snap shot with 2:55 remaining in the period.
Kessel might have been the Americans' best forward. He rang that shot off the post and had another two-shot sequence halfway through the period that nearly got Team USA on the board, if it wasn't for Hiller, of course.
-- Dan Rosen
Hockey Day in Canada, Part 3
2.24.2010 / 2:25 PM ET
When all six Canadian teams play in three matchups across the Great White North, it's an awesome day. When six rivals collide for three thrilling games on the international stage in the Olympics, it's an awesome day.
However, today's slate of games in the men's ice hockey tournament has a chance to top all of that.
USA vs. Switzerland; Canada vs. Russia; Czech Republic vs. Finland; Sweden vs. Slovakia.
Four move on, four go home.
The Americans and Swiss are less than an hour away from opening play in the quarterfinal round here at Canada Hockey Place. Canada vs. Russia will follow in what could be remembered as the best game of the tournament when it's all said and done. Over at UBC Thunderbird Arena, the Czechs and Finns get going at 10 p.m. ET (7 PT). The Swedes and Slovaks play here at midnight ET (9 p.m. PT).
Team USA coach Ron Wilson has made one minor change to his lineup for the Americans second meeting against the Swiss. He has moved Dustin Brown to the left wing on a line with Ryan Kesler and Patrick Kane while bumping Bobby Ryan down to skate in the fourth line rotation with David Backes, Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan.
Zach Parise is still skating with Paul Stastny and Jamie Langenbrunner and Joe Pavelski will again center Ryan Malone and Phil Kessel. Ryan Miller will obviously be in goal.
The last time the U.S. played Switzerland it gave up far too many odd-man rushes in what turned out to be a 3-1 win. That shouldn't happen this time for two big reasons:
1) The Americans have played three games together now, so their communication and chemistry should be better.
2) Goal differential is not a factor anymore, so it's not as if Team USA will be pressing up with pinching defenseman in order to build on a two or three goal lead.
Jonas Hiller is again in net for Switzerland and while he wasn't great against Belarus yesterday, he does have the ability to steal a win for the Swiss.
It's almost time to get going, so make sure all day you follow along with us here and on Twitter with drosennhl and sroarke_nhl.
-- Dan Rosen
Norse 'til you're hoarse
2.24.2010 / 2:11 AM ET
Fans were still cheering "Let's go Norway" in the final minutes, overlooking a number of Slovakia players who are NHL stars. Norway delivered on the urgings--at least in terms of putting pressure on. They put a number of quality shots on Jaroslav Halak, who made some clutch saves and appeared to keep his cool by sticking to good, fundamental goaltending odwn the stretch. Norway fought for every puck and, more than once, did some shoving and staring down after the whistle.
In the end, the bigger and better team won, but not without a furious final minute that had the crowd on its feet, roaring, and Halak turning back a couple of solid scoring chances. Phew.
Back Wednesday, first up is Team USA vs. Switzerland.
-- Bob Condor
Norway ties it... and the legend grows
2.24.2010 / 1:59 PM ET
It was too delicious while it lasted. NHL veteran Miroslav Satan, recently signed by the Boston Bruins and battling injury coming into these Olympics, just beat Pal the Wall to put favored Slovakia in the lead. Could Norway possibly have any more magic left?
Norway ties it... and the legend grows
2.24.2010 / 1:40 PM ET
This game makes no sense and it's absolutely great. After Norway's Mats Zuccarello Aasen--known as the Norwegian Hobbit Wizard-- put Norway on the board at the end of the first period, former NHLer Richard Zednik put Slovakia back in charge with a late goal of his own. Or so you might think the Slovaks were in control.
Norway scored two goals in the second period to knot the score at 3-3 entering the final 20 minutes, much to the delight of fans embracing the unlikely success of Norway to compete in this tournament. Norway's Tore Vikingstad, who had a hat trick against Switzerland on Saturday, scored the second goal, which included an assist from the Hobbit Wizard.
Then, believe it, Norwegian forward Anders Bastiansen put the puck past Montreal Canadiens No. 1 goalie Jaroslav Halak with one second (!) left in the second period. The crowd went bonkers.
Norway goalie Pal "The Wall" Grotnes did his part by stopping all 13 Slovakia shots in the period, including one beauty on NHL star Marian Hossa.
2.24.2010 / 12:50 PM ET
In a scary scene in the first period of the late at Canada Hockey Place, Slovakia's Lubos Bartecko suffered a head injury and had to be stretchered off the ice. Bartecko was carrying the puck across his own blue line with a Norwegian backchecker pushing him toward the boards when Ole-Kristian Tollefsen cut across the ice and delivered an elbow to Bartecko's heda.
Bartecko's helmet flew off on impact and his bare head struck the ice, opening a serious cut that was bleeding freely. Medical personnel were called onto the ice and Bartecko was immobilized before he was taken on the stretcher. Bartecko had movement in his arms as he left the ice surface.
Tollefsen was assessed a five-minute major and match penalty for the hit. Both Michal Handzus and Marian Gaborik scored on the ensuing power play to give Slovaki a 2-0 lead.
Dueling games...Czech Republic survives OT, Slovaks up 2-0
2.24.2010 / 12:24 PM ET
While Latvia and soon to be folk-hero goalie Edgars Masalskis take the Czechs into scary extra time (it's a 10-minute sudden-death period, then a shootout), Slovakia is dousing any upset story line for Norway, no matter that they have a player called the Norwegian Hobbit Wizard or that the team's starting goalie is a working carpenter. The Slovaks are leading, 2-0 halfway through the first. Los Angeles King Michal Handzus scored the opener (assists from the Marians, Hossa and Gaborik) and Gaborik scored the second.
CZECH REPUBLIC WINS IN OT! The Boston Bruins' David Krejci burst the Latvian bubble. Krejci took a beautiful no-look pass backward to him from Thomas Fleischmann (involved in all three goals), then pumped a shot on goal that was blocked. He gathered in the deflected puck, shot again and beat Masalskis.
-- Bob Condor
Face it...Latvia takes the Czechs to OT
2.24.2010 / 12:11 PM ET
Latvia goalie Edgars Masalskis just got cranked in the face mask with a hard shot and looked like a boxer using the ropes to stay on his feet, only Masalskis leaned on the goal post and crossbar instead. At the next whistle, the referee stopped by to ask the goalie a question and put his arm around the Latvian's shoulder (not sure if it was the frozen one or not). Don't think the ref gave him a standing 10-count.
LATVIA SCORES! ... on a rebound off the back boards put in by Mikelis Redlihs.
-- Bob Condor
Splitting the difference
2.24.2010 / 12:05 PM ET
The final of three knockout games is just about to start at Canada Hockey Place, while time is running out on Latvia out at the UBC rink. So welcome to the split-personality portion of the "Elimination: Vancouver" blog.
There are few people who truly believe Norway can beat Slovakia at the main arena, but HEY, LATVIA JUST SCORED TO MAKE IT 2-1 with seven-plus minutes to beat Czech Republic's Tomas Vokoun one more time.
-- Bob Condor
Latvia finds the fuel
2.23.2010 / 11:28 PM ET
Just when you think Latvia might be running low a quart, goalie Edgars Masalskis brings just the right fuel to his team. The 5-9 goaltender/acrobat has made at least five dazzling saves in the later half of the second period to keep his squad in the game. The Czechs are no doubt tired of Masalskis making the save and freezing the puck while they skate in for the rebound a split-second behind.
That's not the only attempted freezing at this juncture of the game. The Latvian trainer has been spraying an aerosol can inside Masalskis' shoulder pad to numb the goalie's shoulder so he can continue playing the kind of goal that has kept his team in this game. What looked over after the first period isn't over.
Guess Yogi Berra was right. Is he Latvian or something?
-- Bob Condor
Czechs too chippy?
2.23.2010 / 11:03 PM ET
After several minutes delay allowing the head referee to partake in video review, a Latvian attempt was rule no goal. The aerial view showed the puck near but not over the goal line before Tomas Vokoun smothered both the puck and field of view to overturn the on-ice ruling. So Latvia didn't cut the lead in half.
A word of caution for the Czech fans out there: Your team is getting a little too chippy tonight. Both Tomas Fleischmann and Milan Michalek, both bonafide NHL scorers who could certainly help offset the Finn firepower Wednesday night, have ventured a little far into the no man's land that is Olympic hockey discipline. There is no a whole lot of room for pushing and shoving, which has combusted twice in the last 10 minutes of play (we're now halfway through this elimination game). Why risk losing a scorer when this game seems in hand--just to mix it up with the Latvians, a group you have already beat and proved inferior?
-- Bob Condor
Latvia Czech-ed out?
2.23.2010 / 10:43 PM ET
A strong start for Czech Republic in the outlying game. Tomas Rolinek, one of only a handful of non-NHLers on the Czech squad, scored a power play goal a little more than five minutes into the game and the Washington Caps' Tomas Fleischmann buried the second goal another six minutes later. Latvia looks about done for the tournament, whether in downtown Vancouver or up at the UBC rink.
Latvia has, however, come back before in these Olympics after slow starts. But don't count on it with Czechs, especially with Tomas Vokoun seemingly on his game. Two more periods and the Czechs move through the qualifying round to a quarterfinal with the Finns. That game will be at UBC Wednesday night and the winner will pose a formidable challenger for the USA, provided there is no slip-and-slide-and-upset against the Swiss.
-- Bob Condor
Change of location
2.23.2010 / 10:00 PM ET
While Jaromir Jagr has talked during this Olympic tournament that he is leaning toward returning to the NHL, the whole Czech Republic team had to relocate for tonight's elimination game against Latvia. In order to fit four games in one day (same drill tomorrow), 10 p.m. ET matchup will be at the University of British Columbia or UBC rink. If Jagr and the Czechs win tonight--that's a safe guess--then they will come back out UBC way for a quarterfinal with the Finns.
-- Bob Condor
Bring on Russia
2.23.2010 / 9:34 PM ET
Guess this Eric Staal thing worked out for Mike Babcock and his coaching staff. The Carolina Hurricanes captain handed out another goal, this time to Sidney Crosby on a perfect centering pass early in the third periods. Mike Richards, Team Canada captain Scott Niedermayer (on a breakaway) and Rick Nash all scored on an overmatched Thomas Greiss and the German defense.
By the last few minutes, the fans at Canada Hockey Place were chanting "We want Russia! We want Russia!"
But the enthusiasm was tamped a bit when Manuel Klinge scored against Luongo late. You wonder is Luongo played himself back into a goalie controversy overnight; he allowed two goals on 23 shots. Marty Brodeur was clearly encouraging Luongo at game's end, but you have to figure that some people will wonder about who starts against Alex Ovechkin and the Russians Wednesday night at 7:30 ET.
-- Bob Condor
It's not intrasquad but...
2.23.2010 / 8:47 PM ET
About nine minutes into the second period, this game was officially on scrimmage status. Jarome Iginla scored his second goal of the period on an on-the-tape pass from new linemate Eric Staal (who figures to stick for Wednesday's quarterfinal showdown with Russia). Staal assisted on Iginla's other goal, which was the third for Canada.
Shea Weber opened the period's scoring with another one of his patented cannon shots from the point. This one was so hard, the officials had to review to see that the puck went roof and actually lifted up Thomas Greiss' water bottle before exiting through the netting and out the top pretty much as fast as it entered.
Just when it seemed like all was right across The Land That Loves Its Hockey, new starting goaltender Roberto Luongo was bagged on a wraparound score by Marcel Goc, who has 10 goals and 11 assists for the NHL's Nashville Predators this season. Luongo, who draws the hometown call of LOOOOUUUUU from fans every time he touches the puck, got tangled up in front and went sprawling forward instead of sliding to his left.
Perhaps more telling: Germany (10) and Canada (11) almost matched shots on goals after a lopsided first period in favor of Canada. The period ends 4-1, and the scrimmage continues after second intermission.
-- Bob Condor
Waiting to exhale--and roar
2.23.2010 / 8:01 PM ET
OK, everybody in Canada breath out. Joe Thornton scored the first goal 10 minutes into the game on the strength a pretty behind-the-net feed from San Jose Sharks teammate Dany Heatley. And wasn't that exactly the plan, to feature a line of guys who play together every night. Good plan that clicked in the first period. The Sharks line played with a lot of movement and energy in the opening 20 minutes.
Eric Staal delivered the first monster hit of the game, lifting German defenseman Jakub Ficenec halfway up up the glass with a clean check. Maybe Staal is pumped about playing alongside Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla. The Crosby Wing Auditions continue.
Canada goalie Roberto Luongo looked sharp enough in what amounted to a cameo role. He stopped four shots, all from at least 20 feet out, while German goalie Thomas Greiss looked his best of this Olympic tournament, stopping some tough chances among 13 saves. Greiss has likely seen just about enough of Thornton, Heatley and linemate Patrick Marleau, since he is the backup goalie for the Sharks.
The Canadian assault from the blue line continues. Shea Weber sent a rocket that Greiss stopped and Duncan Keith (playing again with Drew Doughty and Chicago Blackhawks blue-line partner Brent Seabrook) barely missed with a puck imitating a missile.
Hey, 1-0 is better than zip-zip, but Canada Hockey Place and, indeed, the whole town is ready to roar and scream if Team Canada can bury some pucks to set up a quarterfinals match with Russia that should pretty much stop all non-emergency activities across this country Wednesday night from 7:30 to 9:30 ET Wednesday night.
-- Bob Condor
Canada vs. Germany up next
2.23.2010 / 7:00 PM ET
The Canadians better hope Germany doesn't play them like Belarus played Switzerland. Alert the emergency rooms across this nation if that happens. Get the defibrulators out and charged up.
Germany has nothing to lose in this game, and opponents like that are usually tough to deal with. Canada has everything on the line. The pressure meter is rising to ridiculous levels. Better score early, boys.
As expected, Roberto Luongo will be in net for Canada with Martin Brodeur as his backup. Eric Staal is now the left wing on Sidney Crosby's line with Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash will be on the left side of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
The Sharks line remains intact and the fourth liners are Mike Richards, Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron and Brenden Morrow. Just a hunch, but our guess is that Morrow is the 13th forward, but he will be on the PK.
Mike Babcock will not switch up his D pairings to start the game. Scott Niedermayer is still with Shea Weber, Chris Pronger with Dan Boyle and Duncan Keith with Drew Doughty. Brent Seabrook is the seventh D-man.
The line that Canada has to watch out for is German's NHL line of Marco Sturm, Jochen Hecht and Marcel Goc. Christian Ehrhoff, Dennis Seidenberg, Alexander Sulzer and, of course, goalie Thomas Greiss know what to expect as well.
Look for Canada to come out flying. An early goal is key for the Canadians to relieve some of the pressure. They're supposed to win this game 10-0, or at least that's what everyone expects. As long as their on the winning end, the score won't matter nearly as much as the way the team plays and the chemistry that develops.
Should be interesting to watch. Follow along right here and as well on Twitter with drosennhl and sroarke_nhl.
-- Dan Rosen
2.23.2010 / 5:55 PM ET
Switerland earned a second chance at Team USA by survivng a scare and beating Belarus 3-2 in a shotoout.
Despite outshootout Belarus 42-22 and getting by far the better of the scoring chances, the Swiss risked it all in the shoootut. But goals by Thomas Deruns and Rolando Lemm in the first two rounds were enough to survive a goal by Dmitri Meleshko. Jonas Hiller, whose play improved as the game went on, stopped Sergei Kostitsyn of the Montreal Canadiens for the win.
The Swiss, who lost 3-1 to the Americans in the tournament opener last Tuesday, will try again in the first game on Wednesday (3 p.m. ET/ Noon PT).
Three more games to go.
And now, the shootout
2.23.2010 / 5:35 PM ET
After a conservatively played 10-minute overtime, we're headed for a shootout. The winner gets a date with Team USA tomorrow; the loser goes home.
There were only a couple of top-grade chances during OT, and both came during a penalty to Swiss forward Roman Wick at 5:30. Andrei Mezin stopped Swiss forward Raffaele Sannitz on a 2-on-1 shorthanded break, while Jonas Hiller foiled Konstantini Zakharov's wrister from well inside the right circle on the return rush.
Through regulation, Switzerland outshot Belarus 42-22. But none of that matters now.
On to OT!
2.23.2010 / 5:15 PM ET
After a scoreless third period, we're headed for a 10-minute overtime.
Unlike the first two periods, which saw the Swiss dominate for long periods, the Belarusians more than held their own in the third. Belarus did get a break with a couple of minutes left when a bouncing puck hopped over Roman Wick's stick with a wide-open net in front of him.
It's the third time in a row that the Swiss have been tied after 60 minutes.
Chances, but no goals
2.23.2010 / 5:00 PM ET
We're halfway through the third period with Belarus and Switzerland tied 2-2, though the Swiss have outshot their opponents 32-15.
Andrei Mezin, the Belarusians' hero in 2002, has again been their best player -- and has outplayed Swiss netminder Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks. However, Hiller has made a couple of big stops in the third -- the best came when he robbed Aleksei Kalyuzhny from the right side of the slot 5:30 into the period.
If the game is tied after regulation, the overtime is 10 minutes, not five, followed by a shootout.
Still tied up after two
2.23.2010 / 4:31 PM ET
The roles were reversed in the second period as Switzerland struck first with another power-play goal, but Belarus answered later in the period with a power-play goal of its own.
The Swiss took a 2-1 lead on Hnat Domenichelli's goal at 7:07. Mark Streit's point shot wound up at the doorstep where Domenichelli was. His first attempt hit off the post, but the puck came right back to him and he lifted it over Mezin's right pad.
Konstantin Zakharov tied it up at 15:42. Hiller stopped Aleksei Ugarov's shot from the point but lost sight of the puck. He left the rebound for Zakharov and he put it into the open net.
The shots are 26-11 in favor of the Swiss, but nothing has been decided yet. When Zakharov scored, Belarus coach Mikhail Zakharov, Konstantin's father, went bonkers on the bench.
-- Dan Rosen
All even after first
2.23.2010 / 3:40 PM ET
Switzerland and Belarus are tied 1-1 after the first period. The Swiss have controlled most of the play and are outshooting Belarus, 16-7, but had to come back from an early deficit thanks to a gaffe by Jonas Hiller that led to a goal 59 seconds in.
The Swiss and Anaheim goalie tried to smother the puck, but it bounced away from him. Aleksei Kalyuzhny, who mishanded a perfect head-man pass from Viktor Kostiuchenok allowing the puck to slide to Hiller, quickly tried to backhand the rebound in, but Hiller stopped that. The puck went under him and Kalyuzhny dove to poke it in.
The play had to go under review, but it was awarded a goal. There was concern that referee Paul Devorski blew the whistle to rule the play dead when he lost sight of the puck under Hiller.
Switzerland, though, tied it up with a power-play goal by Julien Sprunger at 12:25, just 10 seconds after Romano Lemm was released from the penalty box. Roman Wick slotted the pass to Sprunger, but the puck bounced up and he batted it out of the air and over Andrei Mezin's stick.
-- Dan Rosen
Four teams are going home today
2.23.2010 / 3:10 PM ET
It's the first elimination day here at Canada Hockey Place so it is fitting that we have a new blog titled Elimination: Vancouver. The Olympics will be over for four teams today and handful of NHL players will be heading back to their respective teams to start practicing for the relaunch of the season on March 1.
Switzerland and Belarus are already under way here with Canada and Germany will follow this game. The Czechs and Latvians will be playing over at UBC Thunderbird Arena at 7 p.m. ET. Norway takes on Slovakia in the late game here at CHP.
The Swiss have to be considered the favorites in the early game here with Jonas Hiller in net, but Andrei Mezin has been known to pull an upset or two. The Belarusian goalie was in net to stun Sweden in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake before losing to Canada in the semifinals.
The Americans have a keen interest in this game as they will face the winner tomorrow in the early game (3 p.m. ET, 12 p.m. PT). Team USA is practicing as we speak and will be heading over here to CHP for media availability in an hour or so.
Follow along here at Elimination: Vancouver for in-game updates as well as on Twitter with drosennhl and sroarke_nhl. It's another long day of hockey, but we're ready to cover every inch of it.
-- Dan Rosen
Refer back to our Destination: Vancouver blog for extensive coverage of the preliminary round