Patient Canada got a power-play goal off a blistering one timer from Shea Weber at 13:06 of the third period to give Canada a 2-1 win over Latvia.
The win puts Canada in the semi-finals against the United States on Friday, the winner of that game to face either Sweden or Finland for the gold medal.
“Obviously, we play against them in North America, so we’re familiar with those guys,” said Weber. “It’s going to be a great game. They’ve played a great Olympic tournament so far, and it’s going to be exciting.”
This was not in any way reminiscent of Canada’s 2010 quarter-final game, an incredible 7-3 win over Russia that was a stunning display of speed, skill, and emotion.
Indeed, Canadian coach of Latvia, Ted Nolan, knows what he has in his lineup – and what he doesn’t. He doesn’t have offensive skill and scoring, but he does have hard-working and determined players.
“I thought our guys did a great job of keeping their composure and staying with it,” said Ryan Getzlaf, “keeping taking things to the net. I thought we did a lot of great things. We just didn’t put the puck in the net. I mean, they’re there for a reason. They don’t just roll over and die. They were playing hard too. They played hard around their net, and I think that’s the biggest thing: those second and third opportunities weren’t there as much.”
Tonight’s game was nothing if not a supreme test of patience for Canada which had to deal with a Latvian team often content to keep four men in front of its goalie and attempt offence only rarely. In addition to 57 shots, Canada had countless more blocked by traffic in front.
In addition to his third goal of the Olympics, Weber played 23:53, more than any player on either team. The team, however, lost John Tavares for the rest of the Olympics with a leg injury.
But the 22-year-old Kristers Gudļevskis was the story. Playing in only his second career Olympic game, he thwarted the best Canada could offer time and again.
At the other end, Carey Price was poised and solid and is sure to get the start on Friday. Latvia didn’t have many shots, but several were fine saves all the same.
“Their goaltender played awesome,” Price noted. “That was one of the best goaltending performances I’ve ever seen in a long time. He played a heck of a game.”
“It was easier to play today because we had nothing to lose,” suggested Zemgus Girgensons. “They had a lot to lose. We believed in ourselves the whole time. We just play a different style. That’s why they got that many shots. It was just too bad we didn’t get lucky on some of our shots.”
Canada had a great chance to open the scoring early when Crosby took a long pass and flew in alone on Gudļevskis, but he shot wide. Moments later on the same shift, Chris Kunitz hit the crossbar with a shot.
It wasn’t until 13:37, after maintaining most of the puck possession in the period, that Canada opened the scoring. Rick Nash finished a fine shift by making a pass from behind the net to Duncan Keith to the side. Gudļevskis stumbled as he went from post to post, leaving a gaping hole in the twine for Keith to hit.
But Latvia did not go down meekly. Price stopped Ronalds Ķēniņš on a clear break a short time later, and then Oskars Bārtulis caught Canada napping.
Right from a defensive zone faceoff he got the puck and fired a torpedo pass to Lauris Dārziņš. He sprinted in alone and thoroughly deked Price before roofing a backhand to tie the game at 15:41.
The Latvians played stifling defence and collapsed around Gudļevskis effectively, frustrating the Canadians and turning the game into a test of patience. After two periods the shots were 35-11, but the score remained 1-1.
Canada simply couldn’t penetrate the front of the goal and there was no such thing as a clear shot. It wasn’t pretty hockey, but the Latvians kept the score close, which was all they cared about.
06:18 – PEN – Sharp, tripping
13:37 – GOAL – Sharp (Nash)
15:41 – GOAL – Dārziņš (Kulda, Sprukts)
16:02 – PEN – Keith, broken stick
25:37 – PEN – Girgensons, slashing
30:21 – PEN – St-Louis, slashing
39:33 – PEN – Ozoliņš, high sticking
51:09 – PEN – Pujacs, slashing
53:06 – PP GOAL – Weber (Doughty, Toews)
W: Price (15-16)
L: Gudļevskis (55-57)
SHOTS ON GOAL
16+19+22 = 57
6+5+5 = 16
Goaltenders: Roberto Luongo, Carey Price. Defence: Jay Bouwmeester, Drew Doughty, Dan Hamhuis, Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo, Marc-Édouard Vlasic, Shea Weber (A). Forwards: Jamie Benn, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby (C), Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Patrick Sharp, Martin St-Louis, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews (A).
Goaltenders: Kristers Gudļevskis, Edgars Masalskis. Defence: Oskars Bārtulis (A), Ralfs Freibergs, Artūrs Kulda, Sandis Ozoliņš (C), Georgijs Pujacs, Arvīds Reķis, Krišjānis Rēdlihs, Kristaps Sotnieks. Forwards: Armands Bērziņš, Mārtiņš Cipulis, Lauris Dārziņš (A), Zemgus Girgensons, Miks Indrašis, Koba Jass, Mārtiņš Karsums, Ronalds Ķēniņš, Vitālijs Pavlovs, Miķelis Rēdlihs, Jānis Sprukts, Juris Štāls.
|6 wins||Head-To-Head||0 wins|
|First IHLC Meeting (CAN vs. LAT)
CAN 14-0 LAT – 01/20/1935 – WC – Davos
|Previous IHLC Meeting (CAN vs. LAT)
CAN 6-1 LAT – 05/10/2010 – WC – Mannheim
|Last IHLC Game
CAN 2-1 FIN (OT) – 02/16/2014 – OG – Sochi
|Next IHLC Game
CAN 1-0 USA – 02/21/2014 – OG – Sochi