Team Canada’s demolition drive to the quarter-finals at the world hockey championship is complete.
Everything the defending champions touched turned into a goal yesterday as Canada doubled Finland 6-3 at the Metro Centre, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper among the 9,178 in attendance clapping in approval.
The defending champs are a perfect 6-0 this year, and are riding a 15-game winning streak at the worlds. They face Norway in tomorrow’s 4:30 p.m. quarter-final.
“We got pushed harder in this game than we got pushed all tournament,” head coach Ken Hitchcock said.
If Canada was pushed in the battle of undefeated teams, it certainly didn’t look like it. Despite a tournament-low 22-shot output, Canada had little trouble putting six pucks past Finnish goaltender Nicklas Backstrom.
Clutch contributions continue to come from a different cast of characters each night, and yesterday, it was time to shine for captain Shane Doan and the penalty-killing unit.
Doan and Patrick Sharp scored key shorthanded goals to turn a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 lead after two periods, and Finland — coming off an emotional win over the U.S. the night before — didn’t have enough left for a comeback.
“You get a lot of momentum just from killing (penalties) off,” said Sharp, who scored 36 times for the Chicago Blackhawks and led the NHL with seven shorthanded markers.
“We were fortunate enough to put some in the net and give us that bonus. It was a huge momentum swing.”
Top-liners Dany Heatley, with two goals, and Ryan Getzlaf, with a single, provided their usual offence, but it was the opportunism of Doan and Sharp that was the difference.
Doan scored twice and Sharp’s goal with 1:48 left in the second sucked the air out of Finland and sealed the deal.
“The shorthanded guys have done a great job,” Heatley said.
There was plenty at stake, as the winner avoided a more difficult match-up with the U.S. in the quarter-finals.
“We treated it as do or die and I think we’re all really happy with the way we responded,” Sharp said.
Finnish head coach Doug Shedden admitted that his young defence corps, which features just one NHL regular, was exploited by Canada’s skilled forwards.
“If you want to play with a team like Canada, you have to play a perfect game, and we didn’t,” Finnish star Teemu Selanne said. “Too many mistakes, and they did a lot of damage.”
“The mental focus wasn’t there,” added Finn Saku Koivu.
Canada was out-shot, and needed former Halifax Mooseheads stopper Pascal Leclaire to make 24 saves.
The way things are going, Canada is starting to look unbeatable, and it might be starting to feel that way, too.
“If we play the right way we can beat anybody,” Hitchcock said.