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Spezza fuels Canada's triumph over Americans

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators centre Jason Spezza receives his Canadian player-of-the-game award after scoring a third-period goal en route to a 4-3 shootout triumph over the United States at the world hockey championship (HHOF-IIHF Images).
Jason Spezza arrived in Slovakia with a golden goal. It's still very much within reach.

The Ottawa Senators centre did his part today to keep Canada on an unbeaten roll at the 2011 IIHF World Hockey Championship. Spezza scored a third-period goal and was named the player of the game for his team as Canada edged the United States 4-3 in a shootout in its opening match of the qualification round, played at the Steel Arena in Kosice.

In Spezza's two previous appearances at the world championship, Canada brought home the silver medal in 2008 and 2009. This time, his goal is nothing but gold.

Spezza's power-play goal gave Canada a 3-2 lead at the 5:22 mark of the third period, but Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers squared matters six minutes later. The teams went scoreless through the rest of the frame and a five-minute overtime period, which sent the game to a shootout.

Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers scored on their shootout attempts against U.S. goaltender Ty Conklin of the St. Louis Blues, who was a standout in making 48 saves through three periods and overtime. But Jack Johnson of the Los Angeles Kings and Blake Wheeler of the Atlanta Thrashers were both denied by Canadian stopper James Reimer of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

After a scoreless first period, the Americans got goals from Johnson and the Leafs' Mike Komisarek in the middle frame to grab a 2-1 lead, with Brent Burns of the Minnesota Wild scoring for Canada. John Tavares of the New York Islanders pulled Canada even at the 3:27 mark of the third, then Spezza added the go-ahead goal shortly afterward.

Canada, which faces Norway on Saturday (10:15 a.m., TSN), finished with a wide 52-20 edge in shots on goal.

"We know there's going to be games when we outshoot teams and they want to frustrate us," Spezza told TSN. "But we stuck with it, we found a way to win the hockey game and that's all that matters. We would have liked to have won it in regulation, but it is what it is.

"Ty Conklin played great today and sometimes you have to take your hat off (to an opponent). There's still things we can get better at. We've got lots of hockey left and we have time to improve the club. The important thing is, we're finding a way to win right now. There's something to be said about a team that finds a way to win."

In other qualification round games Friday, the Senators forward Milan Michalek and the Czech Republic edged Slovakia 3-2 in Bratislava, while Sweden and Ottawa prospect Jakob Silfverberg blanked Sens centre Stephane da Costa and France 4-0 in Kosice. France is back in action Saturday, squaring off with the U.S.

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