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Achtung baby! Germans spring upset at Worlds

by Adam Schwartz

Bruins' forward Marco Sturm and Team Germany
pulled off a 4-2 upset over Team Slovakia at the
2008 World Championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Marco Sturm NHL video highlights 
The 2008 World Championships saw its first major upset of the tournament Monday night at the Halifax Metro Centre.

Slovakia, which boasts a formidable blue line with former Western Conference All-Star Lubomir Visnovsky and fellow NHL defensemen Andrej Sekera and Branislav Mezei, was defeated 4-2 by underdog Germany.

The Slovaks, who are without the services of star NHL forwards Marian Hossa, Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik, have just Marcel Hossa and Juraj Kolnik as their only forwards currently playing in the NHL.

Germany, which is coached by former Colorado Avalanche defenseman Uwe Krupp, is playing without the services of Washington Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig. Krupp turned to Robert Muller to defend their net even though he could have started Dimitri Patzold, who played three games for the San Jose Sharks this season. Muller proved to be the right choice stopping 36 of 38 Slovakian shots.

While Muller was busy, the Slovakian defense was more porous than expected and 35 shots got through to goalie Jan Lasak.

The Germans jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period with two power-play goals by Boston Bruin Marco Sturm and Stefan Ustorf

Lasak thought a lack of discipline and poor penalty killing were the cause of his team’s demise.

“We have to stay out of the penalty box if we want to win,” Lasak said. “We didn't do that. That was the big difference tonight, the power play.”

Muller agrees that the power play was the key component to the German’s first win of the tournament after losing their opening game Saturday, 5-1 to Finland.

“We played with a lot of confidence today,” Muller said. “The two power-play goals were important because it helped us go to the second period with a lead.”

Slovakian forward Ivan Ciernik cut the German lead in half in the second period only to see German forward Michael Hackert added a pair of goals to give his club a three-goal lead that would prove insurmountable despite a Slovakian goal by Kolnik with just four seconds remaining.

The Germans, who now have an identical 1-1 record and are tied with the Slovaks for second place in the Group C standings, will face Norway in its final preliminary round game. Slovakia will face a tough Finnish team Wednesday.

Around the World Championships --
The heavily favored Finns failed to defeat Norway in regulation. Norway, last in Group C, gained its lone point in the loss and the Finns got two of three points because the game went to overtime before Finland prevailed. The Finns will get a boost when Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu joins the club. … Canada will face the United States in both teams’ final preliminary round game to determine the winner of Group B. United States right wing Patrick Kane, who has been nominated for the Calder Trophy for the NHL’s Rookie of the Year, thinks that the Canada-United States rivalry is intense. “I think (the rivalry's) very high right now,” Kane said. “You look at both rosters and there are so many young guys on either team, so it should be a long heated battle for a while. It should be a good atmosphere.” … After Swedish goalie Mikael Tellqvist, who plays for the Phoenix Coyotes, yielded five goals while facing just 19 Belarusian shots in Sweden’s 6-5 win in its opening game, coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson decided to start Stefan Liv against France. Liv, selected No. 102 overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the Detroit Red Wings, shut out France and stopped 16 shots as the Swedes trounced the French, 9-0. … Belarus got an infusion of three Montreal players -- Mikhail Grabovsky as well as Sergei and Andre Kostitsyn -- in time for Monday’s game against Switzerland  but the Swiss came away with a 2-1 victory on the strength of two Julien Sprunger goals. … Even though the Latvians are far from the favorites to win the tournament their fans are more than loyal and have shown up in large numbers despite the long travel to Canada. “They (the Latvian fans) are always there,” said Latvian defenseman Krisjanis Redlihs. “It always helps. It makes you feel, I don’t want to say special, but you are right away in the game. It’s not like it’s just this one championship, it’s every year.” … The Russians, who lead Group D with five points, will get a boost when San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov and New York Rangers defenseman Fedor Tyutin join their roster for the qualification round.

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