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Only A Matter Of Time

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

by Matt Frost

September 8, 2004

(TORONTO) -- This game could have gone one of two ways.

Team Canada, having dominated Slovakia in two previous meetings (a 2-2 pre-tournament tie and a 6-1 round-robin win), would almost definitely carry the play. The only question was whether Slovakia goaltender Jan Lasek would be able to withstand the Canadian onslaught and keep the game competitive or if Canada would walk away with a win in convincing fashion.

Joe Sakic and Jarome Iginla celebrate Canada's win Wednesday night.
(Getty Images)

The answer, as it turned out, was the latter, as Canada, on the strength of four second period goals in 9:20 cruised to a 5-0 victory in front of 18,786 fans at Air Canada Centre. With the win Canada advances to the tournament Semifinal here against the Czech Repulic on Saturday.

But, like the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, this was one of those games where from the start it seemed the underdog wouldn't be going away too easily.

With the exception of the Mario Lemieux-Joe Sakic-Jarome Iginla line, the Slovaks, content to play a dump-and-chase game, were able to smother most of Canada's attack in the first period. Lasek meanwhile, held the fort, stopping ten shots as the teams were scoreless through the first 20 minutes.

Canada did appear to take an early lead at the 4:57 mark of the first when Iginla stuffed Lasek and the puck into the Slovak goal on a partial breakaway. But referee Stephen Walkom disallowed the goal, ruling the play had been whistled dead.

Finally, after Vincent LeCavalier gave Canada a 1-0 lead at 2:28 of the second period, Iginla scored his first goal of the tournament and, for all intents and purposes, it was game over.

The flood gates opened and Canada added two more goals before the end of period from Ryan Smyth and Sakic. Lasek was pulled in favor of Rastislav Stana at the 11:48 mark.

Team Canada head coach Pat Quinn was pleased that his team did not abandon their game after not getting the desired results early on.

"Patience was very important," said Quinn. "We watched the Swedes get impatient and the Russians get impatient. We fully expected that (style of play) tonight and credit to our guys to hang in there and not let that sense or urgency hurt us."

"It's fun when talented guys can show discipline on defence and wait for those opportunities. Then it opened up quickly and they made quick, smart plays."

Iginla added his second goal of the game at 7:49 of the third period to round out the scoring.

Canada has now advanced to the Semifinals in four of the last five major international tournaments (World Cup, World Championship and Winter Olympics), with the 2002 World Championships being the exception. Canada has advanced to the Semifinals in 14 of 17 major international tournaments dating back to 1993.

Iginla's goal in the second period was originally credited to Lemieux, and would have been the Magnificent One's first official goal since Oct. 11, 2003; his only goal of the 2003-04 season.

"I knew it was going to be a short break, two-on-one for Mario and I," said Iginla. "I saw his stick there and tried to hit it. I thought I did, but I missed him again"

"(I was) wide open too," Lemieux said with a wink.


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