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VANCOUVER -- They are no quiet nights or sleeper games at Canada Hockey Place during these Winter Olympics. Canada's hockey fans, willing to spread the love to any and all underdogs, rocked the house yet again for Germany-Belarus in the Saturday nightcap.
Belarus, the winners of a hard-fought 5-3 victory, basked in chants of BEL-ah-ROOS while the Germans could look up to practically all points to see their country's flag, including one draped over the front of a press tribune table. Mostly, though, both national squads appreciated the attention from knowledgeable hockey fans as they battled for third place in Group C -- and the right to get perhaps a slightly easier task when qualifying round games are played Tuesday.
The final nine minutes of play yielded five goals, including two in the span of 39 seconds to allow Germany to tie it up. But Belarus was not done. Captain and defenseman Ruslan Salei scored the game-winner at 14:36 and Aleksei Kalyuzhny salted things with a late goal.
"I got a puck, I shot the puck, it went in," said Salei, who punctuated his comment with a smile.
Salei, a veteran leader on a young team, couldn't say enough about the buzz in the building. Belarus is clearly a crowd favorite here.
"It has been amazing," said Salei, who led his squad with more than 24 minutes of ice time. "It has surprised me and the whole team. It almost feels like we are playing at home. I can't thank the fans enough."
After trading goals in the first period, Belarus went up 2-1 on a monster move by smallish winger Kalyuzhny, who power-boosted up the right wing before hitting the after-burners to blow past two German defensemen. Kalyuzhny found open space and net when one of those D-men, Christopher Schmidt, effectively blocked German goalie Thomas Greiss from sliding across the crease to follow the puck.
Greiss, the backup for the San Jose Sharks, is one of seven NHL players on the German squad while Belarus sports just two NHLers but would have at least two more if not for injuries prior to the naming of final rosters.
Greiss allowed five goals in 17 total shots on a tough night. German teammate and Florida Panthers defenseman Dennis Seidenberg stuck up for his goalie.
"It is hard to save pucks if you don't see them," Seidenberg said. "We didn't do a good enough job in front of [Greiss], either blocking the shots or letting him see the shots."
His counterpart in the Belarus goal, Vitali Koval, stopped 37 of 40 shots from the swarming Germans for the win and third place in Group C.
For a team that hadn't scored in the first two games of these Olympics and even scuffled to put shots on goal, the Germans ignited against Belarus.
Seidenberg opened the game's scoring with a power play goal at 5:39 of the opening period on a smart Marco Sturm pass cross-ice in front of Koval's crease. The Germans tallied next with about eight minutes left in the game, but not for lack of putting Koval to work.
Germany scored twice in 39 seconds on goals by John Tripp and Marcel Goc, who put in a rebound after Koval had just saved two point-blank tries. Counting the Belarus third goal that preceded the German back-to-backers, there were three goals scored in 60 seconds.
The crowd no doubt got their thrills' worth and the full Olympic experience. And so did Belarus forwards Kalyuzhny (two goals and an assists) and Sergei Kostitsyn (a goal and three assists).