VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The home crowd was content, and looking ahead. This one was in the bag. Canada was up 3-nil on a game-but-overmatched Slovakia club with another 14 minutes to play, but really, this one was over, right? If you were one of the many face-painted fans, it was time to get obnoxious, and maybe get some face-time on CTV. It was time to hope that
The lads had built their lead the old-fashioned way. They ventured into the tough neighborhoods: In the slot, in front of the net, and were rewarded.
And so, six minutes into the third period, a loud and sustained chant filled the Canada Hockey Place:
Five minutes later,
Suddenly, and for the final 8½ minutes of this semifinal game, the club that eviscerated Russia two days earlier was bewildered, counter-punching, on its heels. "Up until they scored the first goal, said Pronger, we'd been getting pucks in deep." After Visnosvsky's goal, "we were a little hesitant to get the puck to the net, which allowed them to kind of gain mometum, and start coming at us in waves."
The second wave crashed on the Canadians with five minutes to play, when
But it also begged the questions: Which is the real Team Canada? The bunch that put that incredible beatdown on Russia, preceded by an 8-0 spanking of Norway? Or the confused group who damn near gave the game away?
Friday's late-game collapse was an anomaly, the Canadian players agreed. They insist they've made great strides since the loss to Team USA. Back then, says Pronger, "I think we were stil trying to figure out line combinations, and understand the system and things like that. The third period tonight ... isn't the way we want to play.
What will be the key Sunday? Said Pronger, "We've got to get the puck in deep, and really play physical, and crash and bang and create a lot of opportunities.
"Obviously [American goalie]
"We were too easy on Miller last time," agreed Team Canada head coach
"I think we did a great job in a lot of areas against the U.S., except put the puck in the net," said Morrow, scoring his first goal of the Olympics on Friday. "In a short amount of time, it's tough to get on the same page, but I think over the last few games we found it."
And then, for seven or eight minutes, they lost it. But they won, and move on. Will Friday's ugly ending carry over to Sunday?
Said Pronger, still in his skates, "I'm already over it."