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Canada ends the Slovaks' golden dream

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers


Rangers scoring leader Marian Gaborik and his Slovakia teammates finally ran out of magic at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver late Friday night, as the Slovaks fell to Team Canada 3-2.

The last 10 minutes of the game were truly remarkable as Slovakia, trailing 3-0 after two periods, made it a one-goal game late in the third period and fought furiously for the tie with their goaltender pulled for an extra attacker in the closing seconds.

Rangers scoring leader Marian Gaborik chases after the puck during Slovakia's 3-2 loss to Canada on Friday night. Gaborik saw regular shifts throughout the first two periods, but did not play in the third. However, he is expected to be back for Saturday's bronze medal game.
By surviving the Slovak pressure, Canada moved into Sunday afternoon's highly-anticipated gold-medal game against Team USA. Last Sunday in the final preliminary-round game, the Americans beat the Canadians 5-3 to clinch the No. 1 seed in the playoff round.

Two Rangers will play in Sunday's gold-medal game, as Blueshirts captain Chris Drury and alternate captain Ryan Callahan are both part of the American team that is a perfect 5-0 in the tournament after beating Finland 6-1 in Friday's first semifinal game.

When Callahan and Drury look over at the Canadian bench on Sunday, they will see a very familiar face. Rangers athletic trainer Jim Ramsay is serving as trainer for Team Canada and won a gold medal in that role in 2002.

The late Slovakia rally likely had everyone on Team Canada wondering if they were going to get a chance to play for gold. Lubomir Visnovsky and Michal Handzus both scored for Slovakia in a 3:32 span of the third period on Friday night, with Visnovsky's goal coming at the 11:35 mark and Handzus connecting at 15:07.

The Slovaks dominated the final five minutes of the game, but couldn't beat Team Canada goaltender Roberto Luongo, who finished with 10 of his 19 total saves in the third period.

Canada outshot Slovakia 28-21 for the game, but the desperate Slovaks had a 12-7 shots advantage over the game's final 20 minutes.

Slovakia's Pavol Demitra of the hometown Vancouver Canucks nearly tied the game by scoring on his NHL teammate Luongo in the closing seconds. Demitra had Luongo down and out of position during the frenzied Slovak attack, but was unable to score. It was the second missed opportunity for Demitra in the final three minutes.

Despite the loss, Gaborik and Co. will have a shot at the bronze medal on Saturday night, when they face a Finnish team that includes Gaborik's Rangers teammate Olli Jokinen.

According to news reports in the Slovak press, Gaborik is expected to play in the bronze medal game even though he was unable to take part in the third period on Friday night.

After seeing 11:55 of ice time and firing one shot on goal during the first 40 minutes of Slovakia's loss to the Canadians, he remained behind in the locker room for the entire final period, but Slovak head coach Jan Filc later said this was for precautionary reasons, since Gaborik did not feel he was playing at 100 percent late in the second period and that trailing 3-0 it was better for him to rest up for the next game with a medal on the line.

Although he suffered a 21-stitch cut on his knee when he collided with Henrik Lundqvist's skate during a Feb. 9 Blueshirts practice, Gaborik displayed no sign of injury as he played in all six of Slovakia's Olympic games to date and led his country with three goals.On Friday, he also did not appear to be hurting in any way on the ice right up until his final shift with roughly two minutes remaining in the second period. In the final 20 minutes, Branko Radivojevic took Gaborik's spot on a Slovak line with former NHL stars Ziggy Palffy and Jozef Stumpel.

Scoring twice in the first period and once in the second, Canada dominated the game up until the final 10 minutes.

San Jose's Patrick Marleau got the ball rolling for the Canadians at 13:30 of the opening period, when he redirected Shea Weber's shot from the right point down under the pads of Slovak goalie Jaroslav Halak for a 1-0 lead.

Less than two minutes later, at the 15:17 mark of the first, Canada struck again when Brenden Morrow of the Dallas Stars redirected a Chris Pronger shot past Halak for a 2-0 lead.

Gaborik was at his best in the second period, drawing a penalty against Canadian defenseman Drew Doughty after breaking past two defenders just 1:29 into the second. During the subsequent power play, Luongo was forced to make a big save against a Gaborik shot from the high slot at 2:01. Gaborik later shot a puck just over the net at the 8:50 mark.

Ryan Getzlaf scored what appeared to be an insurance goal -- but turned out to be the game-winner -- on a power play at 16:54 of the second to make it 3-0. Standing just outside the crease directly across from the net, Getzlaf backhanded in the rebound of a left-circle shot by Anaheim Ducks teammate Corey Perry. Pronger also picked up an assist on the goal for his second point of the night.

Slovakia finally got on the board in the wild ending to the third period when Visnovsky flew down the right side and cut slightly toward the goal. Just as he reached the goal line, Visnovksy managed to bank a bad-angle shot off of Luongo and into the net at 11:35.

Fighting to the bitter end, Slovakia cut Canada's lead to 3-2 at 15:07 of third when Richard Zednik emerged on a wraparound from the back of the net to right of Luongo. His backhand attempt was stopped, but Handzus picked up the rebound and put it up over Luongo and high in the net to set up the nail-biting action over the game's final 4:53.
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