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Canada 7, Italy 2 FINAL @NHLdotcom

TURIN, Italy (AP) - Canada's scouting report was all wrong: Italy wasn't nearly as bad as expected. Italy's problem was the Canadians couldn't have been much better during an overwhelming second period that was impressive even considering the weak opponent.

Jarome Iginla started these Olympics the same way he ended them in Salt Lake City - with two goals - and gold-medal favorite Canada survived a brief scare with a five-goal second period in a 7-2 rout of Italy in its tournament opener Wednesday.

With troubled team executive Wayne Gretzky looking on nervously from a private box high in the packed grandstands, Canada was locked in a surprising 1-all tie early in the second period. Right about then, it seemed the Italians realized who they were playing.

"I looked up, and looked all around. It was beautiful the way the fans were going wild," Italy goalie Jason Muzzatti said of the reaction to Jason Cirone's tying goal 43 seconds into the second. "I wondered if that would be the moment of the match for us. It turned out it was."

Dany Heatley scored 72 seconds later and the rout was on, with four more goals to follow in the next 13 1/2 minutes. Muzzatti couldn't handle the repeated odd-man rushes, quick cross-ice passes and dazzling stickhandling that led to 28 Canadian shots in the second period and 50 overall.

Muzzatti, who played briefly with four NHL teams, wears images of Pope John Paul II and the Virgin Mary on his mask, but even they weren't of much help against Canada's onrush.

"That's the difference - that's what we told our players," said Italy coach Mickey Goulet, who coached at the University of Ottawa for 14 years. "The NHL players, they move the puck."

Shane Doan, Iginla, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards also scored in the second, with Iginla getting his second of the game and fourth in two Olympic games. He was the star of Canada's 5-2 gold-medal win over the United States in 2002 with two goals while playing on a line with Joe Sakic.

Sakic also set up both Iginla goals Wednesday.

"When you play with Joe, he's easy to follow," Iginla said. "He got going and we were able to settle down."

It also helped that Tampa Bay Lightning teammates St. Louis, Richards and Vincent Lecavalier know each other's games. Lecavalier played a strong game and had two assists.

"Not much was said and really nothing had to be said," St. Louis said. "We just got better. There was no panic."

Despite the brief scare, Canada got exactly the kind of tuneup coach Pat Quinn was hoping for after Team Canada arrived in Turin barely 24 hours before gametime. By comparison, the 2002 team was beaten badly by Sweden 5-2 in its opener before rebounding to win Canada's first gold medal in 50 years.

"The first period went as we expected, we were a little bit tentative. They were assertive and aggressive - it was not what we expected from the scouting report," Quinn said. "I don't want to compare this to 2002, because everything is different, but this was a good game for us."

That Italy scored not once but twice against goalie Martin Brodeur on goals by Cirone and John Parco was a stunner in itself. The Italians, known locally as the Azzurri, don't have a single NHL player on a roster in which half their players are native North Americans.

"They probably played as good as they can play," said Brodeur, who stopped 18 shots.

"It's like their gold medal game and they found a way to uplift their game," Ryan Smyth said. "It was not a walkover."

What the Italians didn't have was the quality defensemen and goaltending needed to slow a Canadian team so talented it has six NHL captains on its roster, including Sakic.

Still, Italy scored as many goals against Brodeur as the New York Islanders did in beating Brodeur's Devils 2-1 Saturday night. Among Italy's player is 41-year-old Lucio Topatigh, who is playing in his fourth Olympics and is known as his country's "Mr. Hockey."

Canada's own such star, Gretzky, is reprising his 2002 role as Team Canada's executive director. He has been under considerable scrutiny because of his link to an alleged sports gambling ring led by Rick Tocchet, Gretzky's assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes. Gretzky repeated Tuesday in Turin that he was not involved and the issue is "over and done with."

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