Heatley lifts Canada into semifinals

Updated: May 6, 2004, 6:39 PM ET
Associated Press

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Atlanta Thrashers center Dany Heatley scored in overtime Thursday to give defending champion Canada a 5-4 victory over Finland and a spot in the semifinals of the world championships.

Heatley, who had a goal earlier, ended the game 5:33 into the 10-minute overtime. He shrugged off Timo Parssinen and shot from just inside the blue line, with the puck going over goalie Mika Noronen's shoulder.

"It's a big goal, and I'm excited right now," Heatley said. "I tried to get around the net, and in overtime you want to try to shoot everything."

In Saturday's semifinals, Canada will meet 2002 winner Slovakia, which downed Switzerland 3-1. The United States plays Sweden in the other semifinal.

"I was very impressed with our team and how they hung on when they were down or things went wrong and how they fought their way back," Canada coach Mike Babcock said.

The Canadians had ended the qualifying round with a 6-2 loss to the Czechs, who were subsequently ousted by the United States on Wednesday night.

The Americans, who barely avoided relegation at last year's worlds, have reached the semifinals for the first time since 2001. They are seeking their third world title, the last in 1960. But that was when the Olympics also counted as worlds. The only other title was in 1933.

Before the season, Heatley had to deal with the death of Thrashers teammate Dan Snyder, who was killed in a car accident during training camp in September. Heatley, who was driving, missed the first 51 games with a broken jaw and torn knee ligaments.

"It was great to see Dany Heatley get the goal, with all he's been through this year," Canada captain Ryan Smyth said.

Finland blew the first of its three leads after it jumped ahead 2-0 on goals by Ville Peltonen and Tomi Kallio.

Canada tied it within the first eight minutes of the second period. Heatley found the net at 4:27 when two Finns were sent to the penalty box. Jay Bouwmeester then scored on another power play less than four minutes later.

Finland went up 3-2 at 17:12 when Olli Jokinen took advantage of a messy faceoff in the Canadian zone. But the defending champions tied it two minutes later on Eric Brewer's shot from the top of the circle.

Finland led again after Kimmo Rintanen sent a shot from the top of the slot that Glen Murray tried to stop. In doing so, Murray backed into Roberto Luongo, sending both of them crashing into the net and losing sight of the puck, with the Florida Panthers goalie kicking the puck in himself.

But Canada evened the score again when Steve Staios sent a long shot from inside the blue line through a goalmouth scramble.

Slovakia turned back a surprisingly physical Switzerland team in the other quarterfinal.

Martin Strbak, Zdeno Chara, and Pavol Demitra scored for Slovakia, while Adrian Wichser netted Switzerland's lone goal.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press