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Canada, Team USA avoid upset blues

by Adam Schwartz

Rick Nash put the game-winning goal, for Team Canada, past Norwegian goalie Pal Grotnes with just 3:58 remaining in the third period.
Thursday was another event-filled day at the World Championships, but particularly in Halifax where a near upset almost shook the hockey world.

Canada barely maintained its perfect record as left wing Rick Nash put the game-winning goal past Norwegian goalie Pal Grotnes with just 3:58 remaining in the third period.

While the Canadians didn’t expect the game to be this close, they knew that it was not going to be easy.

“We knew what we were in for,” Nash said. “We didn't expect it to be that close, but I think it's a good team-building game for us.”

Canadian defenseman Mike Green, who led the NHL defensemen with 18 goals for the Washington Capitals this season, opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the first period, but the Norwegians knotted the score at 1-1 when forward Mads Hansen beat Pascal Leclaire.   

The Norwegians are realistic and understand that they are not as skilled as Canada, but know with the right breaks and superior goaltending anything was possible.

“We can't outplay Team Canada,” Hansen said. “We've got to destroy them. We've got to be on them all the time and then we've got to hope for a break.”

While the score indicated a close game, the Canadians out-shot Norway, 53-16, and Grotnes kept his team in the game. Canadian coach Ken Hitchcock understands how a goalie can win a game virtually by himself.
“I think there's always reason for concern in our game,” Hitchcock said. “The goalie is the difference maker in our sport. He can win games, he can steal games. There (are) no guarantees -- because of the goaltender.”

With the win, the Canadians -- who carry their preliminary points into this round -- are atop the newly-created Group F and Norway is in fourth place.

Saturday, Canada will play Germany, which is in last place in Group F. Norway, which has played four games in six days, will not play again until Monday when it will take on Team USA at the Halifax Metro Centre.

Around the World Championships -- The Germans put a scare into Team USA Thursday, but the U.S. was able to curtail a German comeback and won 6-4. After the Germans tied the game at 4-4, Team USA coach John Tortorella pulled goalie Craig Anderson, who had allowed four goals while facing just 10 German shots. Robert Esche, who replaced Anderson, stopped all five shots he faced. U.S. left wing Zach Parise, who led the New Jersey Devils with 65 points this season, scored a late power-play goal to give Team USA the lead and Dustin Brown cemented the victory for the U.S. with an empty-net goal. The Germans know that they squandered a golden opportunity for a major upset. “We gave ourselves a chance to come back, but took these penalties,” said German forward John Tripp. “Whether they are the right calls or not, we're sitting in the box and that did not help us at all.”… The Czechs predictably routed the Swiss 5-0 Thursday and are at the top of Group E. The Czechs, who have not lost in regulation in their four games, will play Belarus on Saturday after a day off Friday. The Swiss, who beat France Belarus and Sweden in the preliminary round, get Friday and Saturday off before playing Denmark in their second qualification-round game. … Czech Republic defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who led Toronto Maple Leafs defensemen with 53 points this season, is tied for second in tournament scoring with eight points in four games, including a two-point effort in the Czech Republic’s last game against Switzerland. … After suffering a shocking upset at the hands of the Swiss, Sweden proved its mettle in an 8-1 victory against Denmark. The Swedes got goals from seven different players, including a two-goal game from forward Tony Martensson and a four-point game – one goal and three assists – from Mattias Weinhandl, a former Minnesota Wild and New York Islander player. Weinhandl, who had 56 points in 182 NHL games, is tied for second in points in the tournament with eight. … Danish defenseman Kasper Degn, who is averaging 15:30 of ice time per game, has a plus-2 rating while playing for the last-place team in Group E.

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