Canada gives its all, tops Finland

Spirited, 2-1 win sends team to semis

Russia ousts Czech Republic

Winter Olympics

Salt Lake City 2002

February 21, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah - They played angry, and they played hurt. They played for pride, and they played to shut up their legion of doubters.

But most importantly, the members of Team Canada played last night like tomorrow was just a rumor, fighting and clawing their way to every puck, scrapping their way to an emotional, 2-1 victory over Finland in the Olympic quarterfinals.

"As each game goes on, the intensity grows and the passion to win grows," said Canada forward Steve Yzerman, who scored the winning goal off an assist from Mario Lemieux. "You get closer to sniffing that gold medal, and it makes a difference."

Canada, which hasn't won gold in hockey in 50 years, will take on Belarus tomorrow. Belarus upset Sweden, 4-3, yesterday.

"We really stuck together, and it was a gritty effort," said Ryan Smyth. "We had to play emotionally, and a lot of guys stepped up to the plate."

It wasn't pretty for Canada, but it was effective. After Yzerman's goal made it 2-0 5:49 into the second period, the Canadians finally looked as if they might cruise to a win after playing three extremely tight games in round-robin play.

But 10 seconds later, they were back in a dogfight after Finland's Niklas Hagman took a pass from Tomi Kallio from behind the net and beat Martin Broduer.

"You really have to give Finland credit. They gave us a wake-up call, coming back and getting that goal," Yzerman said. "The fact that each of our games has been close really helped us to bear down in this game because I don't think we expect anything to come easy right now."

Up until Hagman's goal, Canada was effectively playing a wide-open, transition game, getting the puck to Lemieux in the open ice and letting him create. In the first period, Joe Sakic scored on a fairly easy shot, beating Finnish goalie Jani Hurme.

It would be the only real mistake Hurme would make all day, but it proved costly. Finland hung around despite being outshot, 34-19, but Brodeur was stellar late in the game, turning away seven shots in the third period, all of them excellent Finnish chances.

"They weren't really taking slap shots at me. Most of their shots came on dump-down passes," Brodeur said. "I think that helped us in our transition game. I was able to see the puck, and a couple of times we got it away from them and went the other way in transition."

One of those times was on Yzerman's goal, which came after a picture-perfect give-and-go with Lemieux. Lemieux took the puck from Yzerman in the middle of the ice, then perfectly threaded it through two Finnish defenders back to Yzerman, who snapped a shot past Hurme, sending the capacity crowd into a frenzy.

Russia 1, Czech Republic 0: Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 41 shots, outdueling Dominik Hasek as Russia eliminated the defending Olympic champions in a quarterfinal game in Provo, Utah.

Maxim Afinogenov scored the only goal in the second period of a rematch of the 1998 championship game in Nagano, won, 1-0, by the Czechs on the strength of Hasek's outstanding play.

The game wasn't decided until the frantic final minute, when Khabibulin made a breathtaking series of saves on point-blank chances for the Czechs. Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora and Jaromir Jagr were denied in the final 10 seconds during a wild scrum.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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