Canada avoided a potential meltdown in front of a raucous hometown Vancouver crowd, avoiding a comeback to defeat Slovakia 3-2 in a narrow Quarterfinal win, vaulting Canada to the Gold Medal Game, ensuring that the International Hockey Lineal Championship goes with them.
Outshooting the Slovaks 10-4, Team Canada built an early lead midway through the first, finally solving sharp goalie Jaroslav Halák 13:30 into the first, with a Patrick Marleau tip-in from a Shea Weber point shot being allowed, following a review, to take the 1-0 lead. There was no question on Canada’s second goal just 1:47 later, when Brenden Morrow tipped in a low Chris Pronger point shot to beat Halák for the 2-0 lead, which Canada would carry into the first intermission.
Canada again outshot and outplayed the Slovaks in the second, with shots totaling 11-5 in the second frame, leaving Canadian netminder Roberto Luongo largely unchallenged through forty minutes. Penalty trouble would cost Slovakia late in the period, with a Richard Zedník holding call giving way to a Ryan Getzlaf power play goal, roofing in a backhand over Halák from one knee to take the 3-0 lead with 3:06 left in the third. Canada seemed to be cruising to an easy Semifinal victory, in line with their previous medal round blowouts of Germany and Russia.
But Slovakia, as they did in their Quarterfinal game against Sweden, proved to be a challenging foe in the third, exploding for a 12 shot output to Canada’s seven shots, staying out of the penalty box and challenging Luongo and Canada’s, until then, largely untested defensive corps. Slovakia wrecked Luongo’s shutout midway through the third, on an innocent-looking Ľubomír Višňovský backhander that bounced off Luongo’s pad and in to cut the lead to 3-1. But Canada Hockey Place was silenced less than four minutes later, when Michal Handzuš chipped in a rebound following a Zedník wraparound to cut the lead to 3-2, with 4:53 remaining in regulation. Thankfully, Team Canada did not panic, and Luongo was sharp against Slovakia’s extra attacker in the final minute, holding on for the tight victory to book their ticket to the Gold Medal Game.
With the win, Canada captures its 55th International Hockey Lineal Championship title, their first since April 2008, ending Slovakia’s reign at one game. Slovakia captured the title from Sweden, who in turn won from Finland, who entered the Olympics with the IHLC, winning against Belarus and Germany before dropping the belt. Canada and Slovakia last met over the IHLC at the 2006 World Championships, where Canada defeated Slovakia 4-1 in the Quarterfinals. Canada now advances to the Gold Medal Game versus the United States, a rematch of the classic 2002 Gold Medal Game, aiming to win their record eighth Olympic Gold Medal, and to unify it with the IHLC.
13:30 – GOAL – Marleau (Weber, Niedermayer)
15:17 – GOAL – Morrow (Pronger, Getzlaf)
21:29 – PEN – Doughty, hooking
26:08 – PEN – Chára, roughing
36:34 – PEN – Zedník, holding
36:54 – PP GOAL – Getzlaf (Perry, Pronger)
51:35 – GOAL – Višňovský (Stümpel)
55:07 – GOAL – Handzuš (Zedník, Šatan)
W: Luongo (19-21)
L: Halák (25-28)
SHOTS ON GOAL
10+11+7 = 28
4+5+12 = 21
Goaltenders: Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo. Defence: Dan Boyle, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Scott Niedermayer (C), Chris Pronger (A), Brent Seabrook, Shea Weber. Forwards: Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby (A), Ryan Getzlaf, Dany Heatley, Jarome Iginla, Patrick Marleau, Brenden Morrow, Rick Nash, Mike Richards, Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Toews.
Goaltenders: Peter Budaj, Jaroslav Halák. Defence: Ivan Baranka, Zdeno Chára (C), Milan Jurcina, Andrej Meszároš, Andrej Sekera, Martin Štrbák, Ľubomír Višňovský. Forwards: Ľuboš Bartečko, Martin Cibák, Pavol Demitra (A), Marián Gáborík, Michal Handzuš, Marcel Hossa, Marián Hossa (A), Tomáš Kopecký, Žigmund Pálffy, Branko Radivojevič, Miroslav Šatan, Jozef Stümpel, Richard Zedník.