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Lecavalier, Canada won every game at '04 World Cup

by John Kreiser / NHL.com

Eight years after losing the final of the first World Cup of Hockey at home, Canada wasn't about to let that happen again in 2004.

The second edition of the preseason best-on-best tournament involved the same eight nations and the same alignment as the 1996 tournament.

Canada, the United States, Russia and Slovakia were in the North American pool, which was played in Montreal, Toronto and St. Paul, Minn. Sweden, Finland, Germany and the Czech Republic formed the European pool, with games played in Stockholm, Helsinki, Cologne and Prague.

The format did change somewhat, with each of the eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals and the final reduced from a best-of-3 series to one game.

As a sign of the turnover from 1996, Wayne Gretzky was now the 43-year-old executive director of Canada rather than its 35-year-old first-line center. Gretzky opted for a younger, faster group than the 1996 team, which was criticized for being too old and slow. Martin Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the New Jersey Devils who was Curtis Joseph's backup eight years earlier, took over as Canada's No. 1 goaltender.

Brodeur was one of four players from Canada's 1996 team to play in the 2004 tournament.

In contrast, the U.S. roster, the oldest in the second World Cup, had 11 players who won it in 1996. The major difference was in goal, where Robert Esche of the Philadelphia Flyers supplanted Mike Richter, the U.S. starter and tournament most valuable player eight years earlier.

Canada swept its three games during pool play, outscoring its opponents 10-3 and limiting the U.S. and Russia to one goal each. The United States' only victory came against Slovakia, a 3-1 win in its final game.

Finland and Sweden each went 2-0-1 in the European pool, with Finland earning first place because it had a plus-7 goal differential to plus-4 for Sweden.

In the quarterfinals, the two second-place teams lost to the third-place teams. The United States played its best game of the tournament and defeated Russia 5-3; Keith Tkachuk scored four goals, each assisted by Mike Modano. The Czech Republic, 1-2-0 in its three preliminary games, upset Sweden 6-1 in Stockholm.

The United States appeared to be on its way to a chance to defend its title when it took a 1-0 lead against Finland into the third period of their semifinal game. But Finland, which had seven shots on goal through two periods, tied the game 5:04 into the third on a goal by Olli Jokinen, then went ahead with 3:54 remaining when Saku Koivu beat Esche after a defensive breakdown by the U.S.

"We gave up 12 shots on goal and found a way to lose," coach Ron Wilson said after the 2-1 loss. "Maybe their strategy was to lull us to sleep. It was one of those muck-and-grind games. It looked slow. It turned into an ugly game. We seemed tentative or nervous. It didn't make sense."

Canada got its toughest test of the tournament in the other semifinal, against the Czech Republic. Goaltender Roberto Luongo, playing for the first time in the tournament because Brodeur was sidelined with a wrist injury sustained in the quarterfinals, made 37 saves. Five came in overtime before Vincent Lecavalier's goal at 3:45 gave Canada a 4-3 victory.

The Czechs trailed 2-0 and 3-2 but tied it on a goal by Patrik Elias with 6:07 left in the third period. Lecavalier, a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won their first Stanley Cup three months earlier, got behind the Czech defense, took a pass from Ryan Smyth, and beat goaltender Tomas Vokoun from a sharp angle.

"Scoring in overtime for your country to go to the finals is pretty high in my career, for sure," said Lecavalier, who assisted on Ruslan Fedotenko's Cup-winning goal in Game 7 of the Final against the Calgary Flames.

Brodeur was in goal for the final against Finland three nights later at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Joe Sakic, Scott Niedermayer and Shane Doan scored on Canada's first shot of each period. After Finland answered the goals by Sakic and Niedermayer, Doan broke a 2-2 tie when he took a no-look backhand pass from Joe Thornton and beat Miikka Kiprusoff 34 seconds into the third period.

Finland pressed but couldn't get another puck past Brodeur, who finished with 27 saves in the 3-2 victory that gave him a World Cup to add to his three Stanley Cup rings and 2002 Olympic gold medal. He finished the tournament 5-0-0, allowing five goals.

"Every time you have success, it's something you'll never forget," Brodeur said. "The way we dominated the tournament was probably the key for me. How many times are you going to be able to say you never lost a game?"

Lecavalier, who made Canada's roster because of an injury to Steve Yzerman, was named tournament MVP; he led Canada in scoring with seven points (two goals). Lecavalier's Lightning teammate, Fredrik Modin of Sweden, led the tournament with eight points (four goals) playing four games.

2004 World Cup Standings, Scores, Top Scorers
North American pool   European pool
Team W L T GF GA Pts   Team W L T GF GA Pts
Canada 3 0 0 10 3 6   Finland 2 0 1 11 4 5
Russia 2 1 0 9 6 4   Sweden 2 0 1 13 9 5
United States 1 2 0 5 6 2   Czech Republic 1 2 0 10 10 2
Slovakia 0 3 0 4 13 0   Germany 0 3 0 4 15 0
Scores   Scores
Aug. 31 Canada 2, United States 1   Aug. 30 Finland 4, Czech Republic 0
Sept. 1 Canada 5, Slovakia 1   Aug. 31 Sweden 5, Germany 2
Sept. 2

Russia 3, United States 1

  Sept. 1 Sweden 4, Czech Republic 3
Sept. 3 United States 3, Slovakia 1   Sept. 2 Finland 3, Germany 0
Sept. 4 Canada 3, Russia 1   Sept. 3 Czech Republic 7, Germany 2
Sept. 5 Russia 5, Slovakia 2   Sept. 4 Sweden 4, Finland 4
Quarterfinals
Sept. 6   Finland 2, Germany 1
Sept. 7   Czech Republic 6, Sweden 1
Sept. 7   United States 5, Russia 3
Sept. 8   Canada 5, Slovakia 0
Semifinals
Sept. 10   Finland 2, United States 1
Sept. 11   Canada 4, Czech Republic 3 (OT)
Final (Toronto)
Sept. 14   Canada 3, Finland 2
Top Scorers
Player Country GP G A Pts PIM
Fredrik Modin SWE 4 4 4 8 2
Vincent Lecavalier CAN 6 2 5 7 8
Keith Tkachuk USA 5 5 1 6 23
Joe Sakic CAN 6 4 2 6 2
Martin Havlat CZE 5 3 3 6 2
Joe Thornton CAN 6 1 5 6 0
Kimmo Timonen FIN 6 1 5 6 2
Mike Modano USA 5 0 6 6 0
Daniel Alfredsson SWE 4 0 6 6 24
Tomas Holmstrom SWE 4 3 2 5 8
Milan Hejduk CZE 4 3 2 5 2
Patrik Elias CZE 5 3 2 5 10
Mats Sundin SWE 4 1 4 5 0
Mario Lemieux CAN 6 1 4 5 2
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