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Canadians disappointed but not worried after loss

by Dan Rosen
VANCOUVER -- As disappointed as the Canadians were coming off the ice Sunday night, it's not as if they were pouring out tears and crying about how their dream was dead, how they had let down a proud, hockey-mad nation.

All Canada's 5-3 loss to Team USA means to its 23 players, four coaches and elite four-member executive staff is the road to gold is one game longer. As the sixth seed, Canada will play No. 11 Germany on Tuesday in the qualification playoffs.

It's their first elimination game of the tournament, but these guys are not worried.

Far from it.

"Not at all," Sidney Crosby told when asked if he is concerned about Canada's chances now. "I mean, this is a short-term event and you look to get better every game, and guys would probably agree that this was one of our better games. We generated a lot, held on to the puck, and those bounces go their way but it's not always going to go that way."

Similarly, coach Mike Babcock accentuated all the positives he could glean from Sunday's loss when he met the media roughly 30 minutes after the game.

"I thought tonight we did a lot of really good things," Babcock said. "I'll look at the tape and go from there, but we had the puck a lot and did a lot of good things. They forced us into some turnovers, but I thought we did the same to them. I thought the game was a pretty good hockey game. The big thing here is you have to come out on the right side. That's what it's all about. There are no moral victories here."

The Canadians looked particularly hard at the chances they got and the shots on goal they took to determine how they should feel. They nearly doubled the Americans in shots, 45-23, and that's despite giving Team USA four power-play opportunities.

Ryan Miller was a huge factor with 42 saves. Team USA also scored 41 seconds into the game when Brian Rafalski's shot deflected off Crosby's stick and went into the net. Rafalski gave Team USA a 2-1 lead at 9:15 off a turnover by goaltender Martin Brodeur.

Team Canada still held a 19-6 advantage in shots on goal through the first period and outshot the Americans 14-4 in the third. But two of the Americans' shots in the final period went in -- Jamie Langenbrunner tipped in a Rafalski shot for a power-play goal that made it 4-2, and Ryan Kesler dove to swat home a game-clinching empty-netter.

"I thought in the first we generated some good chances and they got a few breaks," said Crosby, whose power-play goal with 3:09 left in regulation made it 4-3 and triggered a withering Canadian surge. "It didn't seem like they were carrying the play other than getting a few chances and a few goals. Other than that I thought we controlled the puck down low and we probably did a lot better job than we did the last game in holding on to the puck."

Unlike in previous games, Babcock never once felt his players were squeezing their sticks too tightly, succumbing to the unrelenting pressure they are under.

"I didn't think that tonight at all," he said. "I didn't think the way we played was any indication of that. I thought prior to this, but I didn't think that tonight."

Even Team USA coach Ron Wilson, who may have just been trying to send his players a message that heads shouldn't inflate over this win, couldn't change his opinion on who he thinks is the best team in the tournament.

"In fairness, Canada probably outchanced us 2-to-1," Wilson said. "Canada, I personally think, is the best team, and I think the Russians are right behind them with all the skill they have up front."

Babcock repeatedly said he would have to look at the tape of Sunday's game before making any determinations on what his lineup will look like going forward.

Brodeur did not have a strong game, so there's a chance Roberto Luongo could get the call against Germany.

"Obviously, tonight was a night we'd like to be better in that area," Babcock said.
"I mean, this is a short-term event and you look to get better every game, and guys would probably agree that this was one of our better games. We generated a lot, held on to the puck, and those bounces go their way but it's not always going to go that way." -- Sidney Crosby

Babcock moved Jarome Iginla back to the right side of Crosby's line in the third period after starting Mike Richards there. Iginla, who had a hat trick when he played with Crosby against Norway on Tuesday night, played only 8:35 through two periods, but he got nearly six minutes of ice time in the third and he looked good.

"I thought Richards played well in the first period, but I just looking for more of a shooter in the third period and that's why we went there," Babcock explained. "The other thing that happened is we took multiple penalties in a row and Richards was on the penalty kill and Jarome wasn't and it set up the rotation that way. I thought (Iginla) had a huge opportunity with about seven minutes left and Miller made a great glove save on it. They're good players."

Canada's talent isn't in question here. How to best deploy it is -- and that's Babcock's job.

He'll have to make these decisions before the Canadians play their first elimination game of the tournament on Tuesday, probably one day sooner than they figured they would.

"We're not complaining about playing another game," Scott Niedermayer said. "If that's what it takes to get to where we want to get to we're glad to do it. It's going to get better. Each guy just has to figure out how to help the team more; that's where we are now."

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