Canada wins, NHL lockout looms

Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2004

TORONTO -- The World Cup returned to Canada after 13 long years. How long hockey will be gone is anyone's guess.

Joe Sakic, Scott Niedermayer and Shane Doan scored on Canada's first shot of each period Tuesday night, and Martin Brodeur shook off a wrist injury to make 27 saves in a 3-2 win over Finland in the World Cup of Hockey championship game.

The host nation celebrated the victory, but the joy was tempered because the NHL is set to announce a lockout on Wednesday because of a labor dispute with the players association.

''We'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow,'' said Sakic, who scored four goals in the tournament. ''Tonight, we're going to celebrate.''

No negotiations are scheduled before the current collective bargaining agreement runs out at midnight Thursday. The NHL's board of governors will meet Wednesday, but the lockout is a forgone conclusion.

But Canada will always have this victory to savor.

''We're just going to go out and enjoy this and then it'll set in what's going on with the NHL season,'' forward Joe Thornton said.

Fans counted down the final seconds that could be the last ones played in North America by Mario Lemieux and Finland's Teppo Numminen if the NHL lockout lasts a year or longer as feared.

''It's looks like it's going to be a while before we get back on the ice,'' said Lemieux, who plays for and owns the Pittsburgh Penguins. ''I just want to keep myself in shape and try to play a few more years and enjoy the game.''

Canada clinched the tournament, formerly known as the Canada Cup, for the first time since 1991. The Canadians lost the World Cup in 1996 to the United States, but rebounded to win the event for the fifth time. Canada has reached the finals all seven times the tournament was held.

This marks four straight national championship wins for Canada, which was victorious at the 2002 Olympics and captured two consecutive IIHF world titles.

Doan clinched this one just 34 seconds into the final period when he cut from the corner and came in front to take Thornton's no-look, backhand pass from behind the goal and give Canada a 3-2 lead.

Miikka Kiprusoff only allowed six goals in Finland's first five games. He withstood tons of late pressure and kept it close, but his teammates couldn't net the equalizer in the biggest hockey game in the history of the small European nation.

Finland was in the finals of the eight-team tournament for the first time.

''We played here in Canada, in Toronto, and everybody could see that we were ready to fight,'' Finland coach Raimo Summanen said. ''Five years ago, three years ago, two years ago, one year ago, this was a whole different mental approach for the team and I'm proud of that.''

Sakic started the party early for Canada (6-0) when he took a beautiful pass from Lemieux in the slot and fired a shot past Kiprusoff 52 seconds after the opening faceoff.

Riku Hahl, playing in place of the benched Ville Nieminen, tied it at 6:34 when he deflected Toni Lydman's shot from the point past Brodeur.

The first period set a tone not expected in this matchup.

Finland reached the finals with a 4-0-1 mark by playing tight defense and waiting to capitalize on mistakes. Yet, the Finns couldn't keep the high-flying Canadians from three quick strikes that snapped ties.

Canada recorded its first shot of the second period 3:15 in, and it was one that Kiprusoff will likely agonize over for however long he waits for the NHL to resume play.

Niedermayer lifted a relatively harmless-looking shot from the left circle, but it managed to get between the Calgary Flames goalie's pads and put Finland behind 2-1.

''Kipper didn't play his best game,'' Summanen said. ''We made a couple of bad mistakes as a team.''

A superb individual effort by Tuomo Ruutu got Finland into another tie just before the second period ended.

The precision of his moves surely wiped the sleep out of the eyes of Finnish fans who stayed up in Helsinki for the 2 a.m. local time faceoff.

Ruutu took a pass from Lydman at center ice and beat Brad Richards to get into the Canada zone. He worked the puck down the right boards, eluded Niedermayer and Simon Gagne in succession, cut to the middle and fired a shot past Brodeur's glove side to tie it with one minute left in the second period.

Brodeur, who allowed only three goals before the finals, missed Canada's semifinal victory over the Czech Republic because of a wrist injury sustained three days earlier.

''I felt really good, my wrist didn't bother me at all,'' Brodeur said.

Each team had 12 shots in the second period, quite a contrast from Finland's 2-1 semifinal victory over the United States. In that one, the close-to-the-vest Finns had 12 for the game and allowed 17.

''We're disappointed, but I'm sure it will feel a little better later,'' forward Jarko Ruutu said.

Notes: Vincent Lecavalier, who scored in overtime in Canada's semifinal victory, was the tournament MVP. ... Thornton had two assists. ... Kiprusoff, who made 30 saves, also lost by a one goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals when Tampa Bay beat Calgary.



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