Heatley, Briere too hot to handle
TURKU, Finland (CP) - Canada passed its first real test of the world hockey championship with flying colours Tuesday after beating star-studded Sweden 3-1, getting clutch goaltending from veteran Sean Burke and a masterful performance from the `International Grind Line.'
While Burke stopped 39 shots, the line of Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby of the Detroit Red Wings and Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes made life miserable for superstar centre Peter Forsberg of the Colorado Avalanche.
It was really the first time Draper's checking unit was called upon after earlier wins over Latvia and Belarus and it showed why Steve Tambellini invited two thirds of Detroit's Grind Line. Forsberg's No. 1 line with Henrik Zetterberg of the Red Wings and P.J. Axelsson of the Boston Bruins is perhaps the most dangerous in the tournament.
``We're the International Grind Line,'' Draper said with a smile. ``These are the challenges that you look forward to.
``We have a lot of respect for Latvia and Belarus but they don't have a Peter Forsberg on their hockey club.''
Forsberg did score his team's lone goal and clearly was the most dangerous player on the ice on either team. But Draper drove him nuts with his constant attention, something he had done often in those great Detroit-Colorado NHL games.
``Those are the challenges, personally, that I like,'' Draper said. ``I do it with the Red Wings and I come over here and Andy Murray says that will be my role with this hockey club.
``You're not going to shut a guy like Forsberg down completely but if you can contain him you give your chance a team to win. And when things broke down, Sean Burke was unbelievable.''
Burke, 36, was rock solid in net, his stop on Axelsson on a breakaway 5:50 into the third period being his most important of the game. He also made a series on saves in the early minutes that prevented Canada from falling into an early hole.
``Without the composure of Sean Burke back there it might have been a different game,'' said forward Daniel Briere of the Buffalo Sabres, who had one goal and two assists. ``He was able to calm us down.
``Because the first five minutes they came at us hard and I think surprised us a little.''
Briere's line with Dany Heatley of the Atlanta Thrashers and Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks continued to shine with Heatley scoring his fourth goal of the tournament while adding an assist and Marleau registering an assist. The line has contributed seven goals in three games.
``I thought the first game against Belarus we didn't play that well,'' said Briere. ``And then we made a little change, putting Patrick back in the middle and myself on left wing and since then it has seemed to click. I played left wing in the second half last year so I was used to it a little bit.
``But especially with the larger ice here there's more room to skate and I'm trying to take advantage of that. Having a chance to play with Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau is quite special.''
Defenceman Mathieu Dandenault of the Detroit Red Wings added a third-period goal as Canada wrapped up the preliminary round with a 3-0 record to finish atop Group C. The Canadians will face Russia, Switzerland and Denmark in the qualifying round starting with Friday's game against the Danes (TSN, 9 a.m. EDT).
Mats Sundin dressed in his first game for Sweden and played on a line with Toronto Maple Leafs teammates Jonas Hoglund and Mikael Renberg. Sundin played a decent game but wasn't nearly as dangerous as Forsberg, who buzzed around the Canadian zone and tested Burke on several occasions, finally beating him midway through the third when Sweden was already down 3-0.
``It was a pretty even game,'' said Forsberg. ``They got the lead and sat back.
``But we gave up too many chances.''
The fast-skating Swedes tried to stretch out the Canadian team with long passes through the neutral zone and kept a winger up high near the Canadian blue-line on breakouts, hoping to catch Canada napping. It worked a few times as both Forsberg and Mathias Tjarnqvist got behind the Canadian defence in the first and got dangerous shots from the left faceoff circle but were stopped by Burke.
The Canadian defence was a step slower than the slick-skating Swedes and had problems containing Forsberg especially in the first half of the game. Sweden outshot Canada 16-10 in the first period. But the Canadians countered by getting the puck behind the Swedish defence and working the boards, gaining more puck possession in the second half of the game and outshooting Sweden 14-10 in the second.
Canada was also able to kill off all seven Sweden power plays.
``I thought we did a good job through the neutral zone and our penalty killing was outstanding,'' said Canadian coach Andy Murray. ``And Sean Burke was our best penalty killer.''
The showcase event, meanwhile, had Draper following Forsberg around the ice all night long.
Forsberg, perhaps somewhat frustrated by Draper's constant attention, drilled the Red Wing foe late the second and sent him flying into the boards. The two players later tussled in the third, with Draper falling on Forsberg as both players hit the ice.
``That's exactly how Forsberg is. He's such a competitor,'' Draper said. ``He wants confrontations and that's exactly what he did.
``But everyone on our team has so much respect for him, he's such a great hockey player.''
Forsberg broke the goose egg with just over eight minutes to go, escaping the check of defenceman Steve Staios in front of the net and sweeping the puck behind Burke.
The crowd of 11,590 at Elysee Arena was split evenly among Swedish fans wearing the Tre Kronor jerseys and local Finnish fans who, of course, cheer for anyone playing against the Swedes.
Sweden's goalie Tommy Salo, playing in his first game, will surely here it at training camp in September after losing to a Canadian team that featured six Edmonton Oilers teammates.
``He's a great guy and a great goaltender,'' said Oilers teammate Staios. ``We had to score some pretty good goals to beat him.
``He made some pretty good saves.''
Briere won a faceoff right back to Dandenault, whose long slapshot from the blue-line beat Salo high to the right at 9:00 into the third, a goal that Salo probably should have stopped.
Briere made it 2-0 at 9:12 of the second, banging in a loose puck under a sprawled Salo after Marleau was stopped from in close. Heatley began the play with a sensational deke around defenceman Ronnie Sundin at the Swedish blue-line to create an odd-man rush.
Heatley opened the scoring on Canada's first power play at 10:47 of the first, sneaking in from the point and left unmarked as he one-timed a cross-crease pass from Colorado's Steve Reinprecht passed a helpless Salo.
Notes: Only points earned against teams also advancing to the qualifying round can be carried over so Canada has the maximum four, as does Russia . . . Canada's last game against Denmark at the world championship was a memorable 47-0 trouncing of the Danes in 1949. It's Denmark's first time back in the `A' pool at the world championship in 54 years. They reached the qualifying round by upsetting the U.S. 5-2 in their opening game.