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