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Canada enters playoff round as No. 3 seed

by Andrea Nelson / Detroit Red Wings
Drew Doughty fires the shot that beat Finland's goalie Tuukka Rask, giving Canada a 2-1 overtime victory Sunday. (Photo by Getty Images)

Defenseman Drew Doughty ended the preliminary tournament on a strong note Sunday night in Sochi, scoring both of Canada’s goals, including the game-winner in overtime, to help the country to a 2-1 victory over Finland.

The overtime win solidified that the defending gold-medal champions will enter the Olympic tournament as the No. 3 seed, earning a bye in the qualification playoff before playing the winner of Switzerland and Latvia on Wednesday, Feb. 19.

“We needed this win today,” Doughty told NBC Sports Net’s Pierre McGuire. “I think that’s how a lot of teams are going to kind of play us throughout the rest of the tournament. They’re going to kind of sit back, make us make mistakes and then on the turnovers they’re going to jump and try to get odd-man rushes so they did a really good job of that tonight but we overcame it and went in overtime.”

Canada appeared to score first midway through the opening period when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo’s shot nestled on the top of the net, prompting Rangers forward Rick Nash to quickly bump it up and off goaltender Tuukka Rask’s back and into the net. But the call was waived off due to a high-stick, as Nash had to raise his stick above the net in order to knock the puck down.

Team Canada would get another opportunity a short time later, though, and Doughty made sure to capitalize on it. The defenseman scored a short side power play goal within the next two minutes, his third score of the tournament, to give his country a one-goal lead.

Rask kept Canada from taking a two-goal lead late in the first, corralling the puck as it went across the crease following a wraparound attempt for one of his 25 saves in the loss.

The Finns tied the game with just their third shot of the second period on a goal from Carolina Hurricanes forward Tuomu Ruutu. Defenseman Ossi Vaananen fired a shot that was swiftly redirected by Ruutu in front of the net, and the forward beat Carey Price with the deflection for his first goal of the tournament.

But with the game tied and tournament implications on the line, Team Canada didn’t bat an eye.

“Oh we were fine,” Doughty said. “We knew we made a couple of mistakes right off the bat but we said, ‘Hey forget about it. This is a fun time, we’re at the Olympics, let’s show the world what Team Canada can do and let’s win this game.’”

Doughty’s calmness paid off, as after a scoreless third period, the defenseman scored the game-winning goal and his second of the game midway through overtime to give Canada the victory.

“You know it was just a good job, Webbs (Shea Weber) played a great job 1-on-1 and then Cars (Jeff Carter) did a great job of wheeling the net and just feeding me the puck,” Doughty said. “Driving the net I just tried to get the puck on goal and for a tip or something like that and it went in.”

Through three Olympic games, Team Canada has recorded 11 goals, six of which have come from the hands of its defensemen. Doughty has scored four goals while Shea Weber has added two.

“It doesn’t happen often nowadays so it’s to kind of chip in,” Doughty said. “With this team, forwards and defensemen move the puck so well and they see things that you know sometimes you don’t even see yourself so I’m just trying to get open, chip in on the offense but play good defense to start off with.”

The game marked the official end of the tournament. Eight teams will face off on Tuesday, Feb. 18 in the qualification playoff, while the top four seeds await the winners of those games for Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

Canada will face the winner of Switzerland and Latvia, while No. 4 seed Finland will face the winner of Russia and Norway.

Despite losing Henrik Zetterberg after its first preliminary tournament victory, Sweden earned the No. 1 seed and will face the winner of Slovenia and Austria. The USA earned the No. 2 seed and will play the winner of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The setup of the tournament guarantees that the USA and Canada cannot meet in the gold-medal game for a rematch of the 2010 Olympic finals, but the two countries are the favorites to face off in a semifinal matchup on Friday, Feb. 21.

Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea

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