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Canada, Spezza hold off Norway in tricky test

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Norway has been the surprise team of the world hockey championship.

Add Canada to the list of teams seeing first hand that the plucky Norwegians are for real at the 2011 IIHF worlds in Slovakia. The Canucks built a three-goal lead at the Steel Arena in Kosice, but had to hang on for a 3-2 triumph in qualification round play earlier today.

Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza opened the scoring for Canada in the first period with his second goal in as many games. Spezza also set up the eventual game winner by James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 9:02 mark of the third, which made it 3-0 and seemingly iced the game.

But Norway, which opened the tournament with a stunning upset of Sweden, wouldn't go away easily. Ken Andre Olimb got the Scandinavian upstarts on the board at 11:36 of the third period, then Marius Holtet scored just 1:13 later to make it a one-goal game. But Canadian goaltender Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings held the fort the rest of the way to preserve Canada's fifth straight win at these worlds.

John Tavares of the New York Islanders also scored in the second period for Canada, which outshot the Norwegians 43-27. Canada closes out its qualification round play Monday against Sweden (2:15 p.m., TSN).

Also Saturday, the United States edged France 3-2 in a matchup of teams featuring Senators content. Ryan Shannon suited up for the Americans, while Stephane da Costa is part of the French lineup. Neither scored a point Saturday in Kosice. The U.S. plays Switzerland on Monday, while France faces Norway.

Sunday update: Czechs, Swedes keep rolling

In the qualification round play Sunday, the Czech Republic secured the top seed in Group E for the quarter-finals by edging Russia 3-2 in a sometimes chippy affair. Senators forward Milan Michalek was held off the scoresheet for the defending champion Czechs, who next face Germany on Monday.

Also Sunday, Sweden — whose roster includes Sens prospect Jakob Silfverberg — blanked Switzerland 2-0.

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