Canada calms panic with a rout of Germany
Canada crushed lightly regarded Germany, 8-2, in an elimination game Tuesday, and its reward was another elimination clash on Wednesday, against Alex Ovechkin and the Russians.
For Canada, anything other than victory after Sunday's humiliating 5-3 defeat by the United States would have been a catastrophe that scarred the nation's psyche.
It may be the same if Canada loses to Russia in their quarterfinal match, but at least for a few hours, Canadians could breathe easy. The crowd at Canada Hockey Place even chanted, "We want Russia! We want Russia!" in the closing minutes.
"Everyone's got pressure," Canada forward Ryan Getzlaf said. "The Russians have pressure on themselves, and so do we. It's going to be big. I'm excited for us."
The Germans, with only seven N.H.L. players and the rest drawn from the journeyman-like Deutsche Eishockey Liga, were winless in the tournament and ranked 11th of its 12 teams, having surrendered 12 goals while scoring 3.
The Canadians struggled to get on track in the first period, leading by only 1-0, but rolled through the last 40 minutes. Jarome Iginla scored twice and leads Canada with five goals.
The game did begin to answer some of the questions about the Canadian team. It had not played close to its potential, with a shootout win over Switzerland and the deflating loss to the United States.
By starting Eric Staal on the left wing and Iginla on the right, Coach Mike Babcock seemed finally to have found some satisfactory linemates for Sidney Crosby, who earlier had seemed a diminished presence, playing as if he missed his regular-season complement with Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin.
Still, it took Crosby a while to get going in this game. Babcock chose him to take a second-period penalty shot after Rick Nash was hauled down, but Germany goalie Thomas Greiss parried Crosby's backhand shot with his glove hand.
Joe Thornton, the big San Jose Sharks wing who had been close to invisible, finally got a goal, quieting critics who thought he should be demoted to the fourth line.
And the hometown favourite Roberto Luongo, the Canucks goalie replacing Martin Brodeur, was steady if not remarkable with 20 saves.
But Russia is a much stronger team.
Greiss is the backup goalie for San Jose; he stopped only 31 of 39 shots. In Evgeni Nabokov, the Canadians will face the Sharks' No. 1 goalie. Babcock will also have to deal with Ovechkin, who has been a physical presence so far, and not by rolling out four lines equally, as Babcock did against Germany.
In their two N.H.L. meetings this season, Ovechkin outplayed Crosby, scoring 7 points to Crosby's 3. In last spring's epic playoff series between Washington and Pittsburgh, both players were brilliant, but the Penguins prevailed in seven games.
Written by Jeff Z. Klein, New York Times