Canada rolls into title game

Posted: Sunday, September 12, 2004

TORONTO (AP) From Stanley Cup to World Cup, Vincent Lecavalier starred again.

Lecavalier, who helped lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to the NHL championship in June, scored 3:45 into overtime Saturday night to give Canada a 4-3 victory over the Czech Republic and send the host nation into the title game of the World Cup of Hockey.

''Scoring in overtime for your country to go to the finals is pretty high in my career for sure,'' said Lecavalier, who assisted on Ruslan Fedotenko's Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 7 against Calgary.

The Canadians, who have reached the championship game in all seven Canada Cup/World Cup tournaments, will face Finland in Toronto on Tuesday.

Finland is the surprise opponent, having eliminated the United States in St. Paul, Minn., in the other semifinal Friday night.

The final game might be the last NHL-style hockey that's played for a while as the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players' association expires the following day. The sides are far apart, and a lockout that threatens next season is expected to be imposed.

Canada's Roberto Luongo made 37 saves including all five in overtime in his first start of the tournament in place of the injured Martin Brodeur, who allowed only three goals on 100 shots in Canada's first four games.

Mario Lemieux, Kris Draper, and Eric Brewer also scored for Canada, which squandered two third-period leads to set up the overtime.

Petr Cajanek, Martin Havlat and Patrik Elias scored for the Czech Republic, and Tomas Vokoun made 20 saves.

Lecavalier wasn't even an original selection to Canada's roster, but a fine showing in the Stanley Cup playoffs nine goals, seven assists and an injury to Steve Yzerman landed him on the team.

And boy is Canada glad.

Already struggling through a tense game without its top goalie, Canada breathed a big sigh of relief when Lecavalier scored.

His first attempt in front was stopped by Vokoun, and then Lecavalier whiffed on the rebound. He skated back along the goal line and roofed a shot that sent the red-clad, chanting fans into a frenzy.

''After I missed my first shot, it went between my legs,'' Lecavalier said. ''I knew I didn't have much time so I just turned around and shot it as quick as I could. I knew I had to go high. With the angle I had, I got pretty lucky.''

Canada is 5-0 and hasn't had to leave the country for any game in the tournament.

It will face Finland (4-0-1), which along with the Czech Republic came out of the European Division and had to travel to North America for the final rounds.

The defeat was a bitter one for the Czech Republic, which lost coach Ivan Hlinka to a fatal car crash just before the tournament. Then the Czechs dropped their first two games in the round-robin before finding their stride.

''People are going to miss hockey,'' said Elias of the New Jersey Devils. ''Obviously, this is disappointing for us, and now we don't know what's going to happen. I guess we go on vacation.''

Martin Havlat tied it 2-2 at 7:21 of the third on the Czech Republic's only power play of the game, created by Lecavalier's holding penalty.

Tomas Kaberle, a Toronto Maple Leafs' defenseman suddenly turned enemy in his home NHL arena, fired a shot from the blue line that Luongo turned aside. But Havlat knocked in the rebound.

It was the first power-play goal allowed by Canada in 15 chances.

Vokoun stopped Dany Heatley's breakaway try just over a minute later with an on-the-back stop that resembled ones often made by Czech Republic predecessor Dominik Hasek.

Luongo also turned some tricks, making three saves in a flurry after losing his stick.

It was Vokoun who faltered first by allowing Draper's slap shot to get by during a delayed-penalty call, that gave Canada a 3-2 lead with just 6:13 remaining.

Just six seconds later, Elias tied it by firing a loose puck that was between the circles, through traffic and by Luongo.

''It was up and down hockey,'' Jaromir Jagr said. ''Even when we were down 2-0 we came back. That showed the power of this team.''

Luongo was in because of Brodeur's wrist injury sustained late in Canada's easy quarterfinal victory over Slovakia.

After the first 31 minutes passed in this one without a goal or penalty, Brewer snapped the scoreless tie.

Joe Thornton got the puck near the left boards and passed it down behind the net to Draper, who found Brewer charging in from the blue line for a stuff shot past Vokoun.

Just 3:10 later, Lemieux, made it 2-0 with his first goal of the series on the first power play of the game.

But just 42 seconds after that, Cajanek got the Czech Republic within a goal with a shot that Luongo didn't appear to see.

Notes: Havlat, Elias and Draper each have three goals in the tournament. Lecavalier has two.

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