Canada survives Latvia's third period surge

Updated: May 3, 2005, 12:55 PM ET
Associated Press

INNSBRUCK, Austria -- Defending champion Canada and Russia struggled Saturday in winning their opening games at the hockey world championship.

Canada getting 1964 medals
Canada's 1964 world championship hockey team will finally get its bronze medals.

In 1964, the worlds were held in conjunction with the Winter Olympics. The Soviet Union won both gold medals and Sweden won both silvers.

The bronze went to Czechoslovakia for the Olympics and Canada for the worlds. At the time, officials awarded only Olympic medals. Now, 41 years later, the matter is being corrected.

"I'm glad that the Canadian team will receive their overdue bronze medals," Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, said Saturday. "While we regret the oversight, it's heartening to see that all these years later the team will receive credit they deserve for their bronze medal performance."

The medals are being produced and are expected to be presented to the players in a month.

Canada, trying to win a third straight world title for the first time since 1950-52, held off Latvia 6-4 behind three goals by Rick Nash at Innsbruck's Olympiahalle, site of two Olympic tournaments.

"Anyone can see that we can play a lot better," said Canadian defenseman Sheldon Souray, who played in Sweden this season during the NHL lockout.

Russia, which defeated Sweden in last week's European Hockey Tour final, beat Austria 4-2 after the host nation tied the score midway through the last period in Vienna.

The United States, bronze-medal winners at last year's worlds, faces Slovenia on Sunday. The 16-team tournament ends May 15 in Vienna.

Canada led 5-2 after two periods and appeared headed to an easy victory. But Janis Sprukts and Karlis Skrastins beat Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur in a 2:44 span midway through the second period to get Latvia within a goal and excite its drum-beating fans.

"We have a good team in this locker room, so I wasn't worried," said Joe Thornton, who scored one of three power-play goals for Canada in the second period. "Even when the score was 5-4, you can't get nervous with the team we've got. We knew we were going to get the next goal."

Nash, who played in Switzerland this season, completed his hat trick with less than six minutes left, tapping in a low, soft shot past NHL goalie Arturs Irbe, who replaced starter Edgars Masalskis after Canada took a 5-2 lead.

"We gave up four power-play goals," Latvian coach Leoniz Bresnevs said.

Brendan Morrison, who also played in Sweden this season, scored for Canada 2:55 into the game with a power-play goal. Aleksandrs Semjonovs tied it 1-1 just 34 seconds later. Patrick Marleau restored Canada's lead 7:49 into the second period and Girts Ankipans tied it a second time 3:06 later.

"We're not where we want to be yet," Canada coach Marc Habscheid said. "We forced a lot of pucks, we created some turnovers for the Latvians and they jumped on the opportunities."

"We're happy we got the win. We learned a few things tonight," he added. "We have to clean up a certain areas of our game."

Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Kharitonov, Alexei Kovalev and Ilya Kovalchuk scored for Russia.

"We had a good start into the match, but failed to close the game early," Russian coach Vladimir Krikunov said. "Nonetheless, we got the win and that's all that matters. After all, our aim is to win gold and that is only possible by defeating everyone in our way."

Ovechkin's opener was matched by a power-play goal from Oliver Setzinger in the first period before Kharitonov put his team ahead again. Early in the third, Raimund Divis surprised Russian goalie Maxim Sokolov with a shot from a sharp angle to make it 2-2.

Two late goals saved Russia. With less than four minutes left, Kovalev converted a break to give Russia the lead again and Kovalchuk added an empty-netter in the final seconds.

Despite losing, Austria received a standing ovation from a capacity crowd of nearly 10,000.

"It always looks unlucky to miss a tie if you come so close," Austrian coach Herbert Poeck said. "But the Russians dominated the first half of the game and so I was very happy with the way my team came back."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press