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Canada falls, but advances at Worlds

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Former Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr and his Czech teammates celebrate Jagr's go-ahead goal in the second period of the Czechs' 3-2 win over Canada Tuesday in the IIHF World Championship tourney.

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Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival got the best of his fellow Blueshirt blueliner Marc Staal on Tuesday, as the Czech Republic defeated Team Canada 3-2 in the two teams' final qualification-round game at the IIHF World Championship tournament in Mannheim, Germany.

Both teams advanced to the medal-round quarterfinals, which begin on Thursday. Canada, trailing 3-1 after two periods, could come no closer than a goal in the third. It didn't matter, however. Before the game began, the Canadians had already clinched a quarterfinal berth, since neither Norway or Latvia was in position to knock them out of a top-four position in Group F.

Team Canada, assembled by Rangers legend Mark Messier, who is serving as his native country's General Manager after completing his first season as Special Assistant to Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather, will Russia in its quarterfinal on Thursday. The Czechs will face Finland in the quarters.

Staal's Rangers teammate Michael Del Zotto was a healthy scratch on Tuesday, since Canada chose to dress an extra forward instead of eight defensemen. Rangers backup goaltender Chad Johnson also did not play against the Czech Republic, making Staal the only member of the Canadian Blueshirt contingent to skate against Rozsival.

Staal finished with one shot on goal -- a prime second-period scoring chance -- in 16:34 of ice time. He once again skated on a defensive pairing with Brent Burns of the Minnesota Wild. Staal saw 6:44 of his ice time in the middle period.

Rozsival, who has been the Czechs' ice-time leader throughout the tournament, once again led his team with 23:58. He did not record a shot on goal, but had an assist on the eventual game-winner by Jakub Klepis, a former NHL first-round draft pick who now plays with Omsk of the KHL, where he is teammates with former Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr, a major force in the Czechs' win on Tuesday.

The Czechs outshot Canada 36-30, and Canadian goaltender Chris Mason of the St. Louis Blues had 33 stops in defeat, losing a duel to Florida Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun, whose stellar netminding has helped propel his nation into the quarterfinals.

Team Canada scored first on a power play at 6:59 of the opening period with former Rangers defenseman Karel Rachunek off for boarding.

Carolina Hurricanes forward Ray Whitney got the goal when he backhanded in a breakaway after being spring off a pass by defenseman Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames. Goaltender Mason also assisted on the Whitney goal, and Team Canada went right back on the power play just under two minutes later when Jiri Novotny took a second straight boarding penalty.

Canada couldn't cash in, however, and the Czechs made it a 1-1 game on a shorthanded situation with 1:40 to go in the first period. Novotny forced a turnover in the neutral zone and sprung Lukas Kaspar on a breakaway. Kaspar made a slick deke to tie the score by backhanding the puck through Mason's pads as the goaltender moved from his right to left.

Kaspar scored with only five seconds left in a high-sticking penalty to Rachunek.

Staal had a great scoring opportunity in the first minute of the second period, when he came down the left wing and unleashed a shot that went just wide of the net to Vokoun's left. Staal followed the play to the net and the puck ended up on his stick, where he was stopped by Vokoun from just outside the crease.

Shortly after that save, Vokoun made another sprawling stop against Mason Raymond to keep the score even at 1-1. He then made another big stop on John Tavares -- a play that ended with Rachunek being called for holding/

Jagr gave the Czechs a 2-1 lead, their first of the game, at 12:19 of the second period. The goal was scored on a double-deflection with Jagr setting a screen in front of Mason.

Ondrej Nemec took the initial shot, which Petr Vampola redirected in a downward motion. As the puck traveled toward the goal, Jagr deflected it again past Mason, who never saw the shot coming due to Jagr's work in front.

Jagr turned it up a notch after the goal, drawing a holding penalty against Giordano in the offensive zone with 2:19 left in the middle period. The Czechs capitalized on that penalty 37 seconds later, when Klepis finished off a 2-on-1 with Rozsival -- a play that began with Rozsival taking a breakout pass from Vokoun in the neutral zone.

The Rangers defenseman skated through the neutral zone, over the blue line and to the top of the slot just inside the right circle, where he led Klepis in alone on Mason. Klepis slid the puck under the outstretched Canadian goaltender for a 3-1 Czech lead after 40 minutes.

With only 1:11 remaining in regulation, and Mason off the ice for an extra attacker, Canada's Matt Duchene scored off an assist from Raymond, but the tying goal never came.
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