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Canada 3, Czech Republic 2

NHL.com @NHL

TURIN, Italy (AP) - The goals came, as Wayne Gretzky predicted they would. Martin Brodeur played like a gold-medal winning goalie, too.

That doesn't mean Canada solved all its problems during an encouraging but far-from-perfect performance one day before the Olympic men's hockey games start to count.

Chris Pronger scored a goal and set up another in a three-goal first period and Canada ended its long scoring slump, then held off the Czech Republic 3-2 Tuesday for its first victory in three games.

"A couple of goals helps the confidence," Pronger said. "Finally getting a win after a couple of games gives everyone a lift."

By winning, Canada (3-2) finished third among the four qualifiers in the six-team Group A. Its quarterfinal opponent was to be determined in later games matching Russia against the U.S. and Sweden against Slovakia.

The Czechs (2-3), last year's world champions, finished a disappointing last among the four qualifiers and will play the Group B winner Wednesday.

"We didn't win a lot of games, but the tournament really starts with the quarterfinals," Czech forward Milan Hejduk said. "Today we showed some signs of life and, if we play well in the next few games, we'll be fine."

The day after executive director Gretzky promised one goal would lead to another, he was right. Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis and Pronger scored in a 12-minute span of the first to put the defending gold medalists up 3-0.

Canada had been shut out for 129 minutes, 11 seconds, a span that included losses to Switzerland and Finland, before Richards scored on what looked to be a harmless wrist shot from the slot about 7 1/2 minutes into the first.

"It was an ugly type of goal and Brad had a cheeky grin on his face, but it was what we needed," Kris Draper said.

St. Louis, Richards' teammate with the Tampa Bay Lightning, followed with a bad-angle shot from along the goal line that banked off Nashville Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun, who was pulled after the first. Pronger scored in the final minute of the period on a slap shot from the high slot following a long rebound.

"We tried to start better and score a couple of quick goals, and it was a big plus when we did that," Simon Gagne said. "Overall, I think we played pretty well defensively."

The three goals were barely enough as the Czechs pressed the play after that, getting goals from Pavel Kubina and Petr Cajanek. The Czechs outshot Canada 26-8 over the final two periods and 33-16 overall.

"We gave away some bad goals at the start but, if we play like we did in the last 40 minutes, we will be OK," Jaroslav Spacek said.

Brodeur made one difficult save after another, turning aside 31 shots in the kind of performance that carried Canada to the gold medal following an equally slow start in Salt Lake City.

In that Olympics, Canada shook off two consecutive poorly played games to tie the Czechs, then went on to win its final three games and the country's first men's hockey gold medal in 50 years.

Brodeur appeared to be favoring a knee during the second period, but said it wasn't a problem.

"The worst thing for us was probably getting the lead early," Brodeur said. "We sat back after that, but in the end we held on and got a good performance out of our guys."

Pronger had a strong game, rebounding from a big mistake in Finland's 2-0 victory over the Canadians on Sunday. Coach Pat Quinn criticized Pronger for lack of hustle in letting Finland's Saku Koivu pull the puck away from him to set up Finland's first goal.

The loss to Finland followed Canada's 2-0 loss to Switzerland on Saturday, one of the most surprising losses in Canadian Olympic history.

"The big thing was we came back from a bad spell," Ryan Smyth said. "We played more like a team and regained that focus."

Czech backup goalie Milan Hnilicka made eight saves while shutting out Canada over the final two periods. Canada was held to two shots in the third period, something that will no doubt be a concern for Gretzky and Quinn going into the medal round.

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